In what way is Good Friday a paradox? It is not a paradox to say that the day when Jesus died was “good.” We understand that. It’s good because it gave us new life. The death of another gave life to me. That is good indeed.
But that is only half of the gospel. The paradox comes when we are confronted with our own Friday.
Because the Gospel is not just that “Jesus has suffered on your behalf” but also in the absurdity of Paul’s proclamation, “16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16–17).
It is there that we struggle with the adjective “Good.”
I am overwhelmed with conflict on Good Friday. I am confronted with the paradox of a God whose love suffers on my behalf but a God who then calls me to participate in that same suffering. Good Friday is not “good” because we escape suffering but because when we suffer with Christ it does not overwhelm us. Good Friday is not our ticket out of suffering nor does it give us the right to ignore the profound suffering we and our neighbors face every day. We do not run away from suffering, creating spaces to ignore it. That is a scandalous abuse of Good Friday. No, Good Friday gives us the courage to face up to our suffering, creating spaces for others to talk about it. Oh Death, you will come, but you have lost your sting! This is the one day a year that I cannot ignore the paradox that it is only in death that life comes but it is in life that death is overcome.
Jesus is not our escape. He is our Redeemer. He does not keep us from suffering. He participates in it with us and we with him. And it is in this “with” that we find love and relationship. And this love transforms suffering. And such is how Paul finishes his chapter on suffering with Christ:
34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”