Why It’s Good Friday

by Elouise

prodigal return

Today is Maundy Thursday. You’ll read this on Good Friday. I’ve been thinking this week about Jesus’ relationship with God as he drew closer to death.

Jesus laid aside many things during his brief time on this earth. Not because he was a martyr, or super-religious, or had taken religious vows, but because they got in the way of his mission on this earth. He was here to be one of us in birth, life and death. To show us the way to go home.

For him that meant no worldly fame or fortune, no home of his own, no reputation, nothing that would distract or slow him down. Not even the temptations in the wilderness got him off track. His eye was set toward Jerusalem and certain death.

But what about his last days? The laying aside wasn’t entirely voluntary anymore. I’ve often thought about the shame and humiliation he endured, involuntarily stripped of things that gave him a measure of protection, covering and human companionship. Stripped of freedom or safety to come and go without harassment, stripped of his followers, stripped of his right to a fair trial, stripped to be beaten.

I’ve imagined brutal soldiers, self-righteous religious officials and citizens just like you and I as the perpetrators of this injustice. All captured in its most inhuman form in crucifixion. There he was, violated, exposed, helpless and apparently forsaken.

Jesus’ cry about God forsaking him wasn’t theater drama. It was real. Yet in that moment, not a moment too soon or too late, God was already reaching out to welcome this son home. Not because Jesus earned it by living a complete life of faith, but because at the end he still had faith in God and God still had faith in him.

It might seem his cry of dereliction was a sign that he’d given up on God. In that case, wouldn’t it have been better to curse God and die? Job’s wife thought so. But neither Job nor Jesus took that route.

Jesus, like Job, puts God on trial. He demands a response. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He wants an answer, and I believe he fully expected an answer.

It came as part of his death, when Jesus delivered his spirit into God’s hands. And in a strange and wonderful reversal, God welcomed home this beloved non-prodigal son so that we might also be welcomed home. Beggars and prodigals that we are, beloved by God who watches and aches to welcome us home as well.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 March 2016
Painting by Soichi Watanabe, found at thebeggarsbakery.net