The Paradox of Good Friday

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.”
-Romans 8:34–39

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4 responses to “The Paradox of Good Friday

  1. Jared – I like it when you break new ground – it makes you sound more and more like the Church Fathers and the Church mystics.

    You are right: It is so scary to embrace the cross – to become attached to it.

    …..let’s not forget the essential element required to make our Good Friday good – to make it worthy of Christ – suffering on the cross is only meaningful if it is love that puts us on the cross – this love must truly be directed toward others if we in any way want our love to be directed toward God. It must flow from God and be devoted for the needy in order to return to God with any purity.

    …and what must be attached to the cross must be us without our dressing, our reputations, our companions and comforts.

    What makes Good Friday good is not so much paradox as it is impossible. Impossible without God.

    I do hope your Easter is full.

    Peace and All Good be yours,

    Garry Mott OFS

  2. Is it wrong that the thing on my mind today is “Why should I feel bad anyway? It’s YOUR (God) fault for making us this way (that is to say, in need of some kind of redemption)…” Why should I feel bad about something that’s not my fault? I spent so many Good Friday’s being told that it was MY sin that crucified Jesus, that Jesus was thinking of ME (above all…. I hate that song…) when he died, that if people (Israel) were just better at doing what God wanted, this wouldn’t have had to happen (or conversely that this was God’s plan from the beginning of time – in which case, I really don’t feel bad about it).

    Look, this whole set-up was HIS invention… so why the long faces? I’m not in the mood to be spending my Good Friday feeling bad for God because he decided had to kill (or let be killed) His only Son so I/humanity could eventually be in a right relationship with Him. So there.

    I think I woke up on the wrong side of the Good Friday bed.

    • JenG – perhaps the idea of a penal atonement – the idea that he took our licks for us – comes from an imperfect understanding of Christ’s mission.

      Maybe Jesus died for you but not because of them.

      Christ gave to God a life that was perfectly satisfactory where we in our state of sin do not do that. Not only was Christ’s life perfectly satisfactory but it was infinitely satisfactory and gave infinite merit to the human race. God does not see man;s insult but rather he sees Christ’s goodness.

      the penal substitution model was developed because humans want punishment in return for wrongs…but maybe God is different.

      God gave his goodness to creation. Man returned insult. Man insulted Christ. Christ returned goodness. This perhaps is the justice that God sought.

      I am not proposing something new. Anselm developed the line in Cur Deos Homo. Perhaps you could gain by studying the satisfaction theory of atonement.

      Also – I do not mean to be critical what with you getting up on the wrong side of the Good Friday bed (cute phrase – I liked it) ….but maybe you are on the right side of the Good Friday bed…was not Christ feeling isolated and out of it on the cross – feeling lonely and despair – perhaps he was taking you to the father in a way more real than he was ‘taking licks for you’.

      I hope you make it to the Good Friday services tonight and have a Peace and Good this Easter.

      Garry Mott, OFS

      • I think perhaps your last paragraph was the most helpful – perhaps the wrong side of the bed is the right one for today. Thanks for the fresh perspective.

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