The next 48 hours are my least favorite in the whole year because, as a Church, we begin to remember the last supper; the hours of agony in the garden of Gethsemane; and the capture, trial, whipping, and crucifixion of Jesus. These 48 hours are my least favorite because I don’t think I’ll ever LOVE the cross. The cross was, and always will be, the mechanism by which my God was murdered. I’ll never love that my God was tortured and killed on a cross. And I’ll, for sure, never love that my sin put Him there.
But on Good Friday, there’s such pressure to affirm the cross. There’s even many pastors who believe that we need to reenact/experience the cross every year to come to understand the great price that was paid — just how bad our sin is. I don’t question that some need to be stared in the face with the reality of what happened. And I can’t argue that we shouldn’t speak of the violence. The text from scripture is quite clear. (I can barely hold back tears every time I see the phrase “He was barely recognizable as a man.”)
But I do have huge problems with the solution that we’ve come up with in the modern church: pornographically, gratuitously violent “conviction” videos. Those videos will be violent for that sake of being violent, assuming that people (maybe even more specifically, men) will connect with the story and grasp the reality of the cross more. They figure that because we have seen horrendous violence in movies, they need to show that Jesus was tough and suffering was REAL. They think that the horrors of the cross will make the gospel come to life all the more.
The dangers of these videos is that people do connect to the pain of the cross, but they rarely, if ever, understand the Gospel from it. That’s because even if the videos have the congregation seeing the events as one of the jeering crowd members, seeing those images makes us feel like we were suffering with Jesus. Our compassion makes us believe that we would have been the ones weeping alongside the three Mary’s and John. That we would have been on Jesus’ side. But if scripture teaches us anything, it’s that we would have either been in the crowd, killing and mocking Jesus, or hiding like cowards like the disciples. We would not come out on top in that situation. We would not come out “holy” or “faithful” that’s for sure.
In addition, the videos don’t lead us to the gospel. They lead us away from it. They don’t really teach us about a part of the Gospel. They inflict us with the horror that we can’t escape from.
The cross was so bad, that when the disciples saw it, they had to also see the Resurrected Christ to get over it. Do we really “get” that from even the most horrendous video?
And so, this good Friday, I’ll once again, like so many other days of the year, be steeped in all the parts of the Gospel. Because if I don’ have all the parts, I can’t make a whole. And the whole is what broke me so long ago, and what continues to break me every morning. Oh, how I long for the churches that know how to respect the cross as a piece of the Gospel and not tear it from the other parts.