A Good Friday Tradition

There are times in my life when I feel like a complete ignoramus for having failed to get the significance, and/or meaning behind a phrase, statement or event. People who know me, have often heard me say, “I’m slow, but I get there!” It’s a line, I must admit that I find myself needing to repeat all too often and is generally after I’ve suddenly realized the meaning behind some minor event or comment that has been repeated numerous times.
For example: There are some movies I’ve watched repeatedly and “Waterworld” with Kevin Costner, and one of my all-time favorites Dennis Hopper, is one of those. There is a scene where Dennis’s character is riding through the rusted out hulk of his oil tanker throwing packs of cigarettes to his mob of followers. After seeing “Waterworld” 4 or 5 times I finally got the connection between the reward of “smokes” and the fact that the bad guys were called “Smokers”. Duh! Good Friday has come to be a consistent reminder of what that feels like.
From the time I was 9 years old until I left leave home for college, I spent every Sunday morning in Sunday school and church at a little Congregational/United Church of Christ church. That meant that every Sunday morning, without fail, I recited what’s known as “The Apostle’s Creed.” It was part of the standard liturgy of the church. Within that liturgy is a portion that reads, “was crucified, dead, and buried;” Crucified! Yeah he was killed. Lots of people are killed. Jesus of Nazareth was killed by means of crucifixion by the Romans! That was the extent of the discussion of the means of his execution. If the nature of crucifixion was ever discussed it somehow eluded me.
In another movie I’ve seen a number of times, “Apocalypse Now” Marlon Brando’s character, Colonel Kurtz, is describing the nature of that war and the enemy; in doing it he refers to “the horror.” There is something in the nature of the way he says, “the horror” that describes an unspeakable effect of man’s ability to make his fellow man suffer.
In 2004, Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of The Christ” came out a month or so before Easter and the church I was attending at the time, went in a group to see it as soon as it came out. I didn’t go with them. I felt that it was far more appropriate to see it on Good Friday; so on that day, Good Friday of 2004 I went to the afternoon showing of “The Passion of The Christ.” I’d heard comments of the nature of what I was to see, but was totally unprepared for “the horror” of crucifixion. I was stunned to the point of being unable to move from my seat until the next round of movie goers began filling into the theater.
Crucifixion was a horribly cruel death and the Romans perfected it. Mel Gibson brought me face to face with “the horror” which no one in my Christian education had ever discussed. The thoughts that flooded my mind for the next few weeks were so filled with mixed emotions that I had difficulty sorting them out. Questions which had seemed so academic suddenly took on a completely new nature. Among those, were questions of the real nature of the Trinity and the exact nature of the relationship between God and Christ.
Could a perfect father actually ask or expect his only son to suffer like that; for billions of unappreciative humans? Maybe He couldn’t and that was proof of the fact that God and Christ were one in the same. It also seemed likely that a perfect son, for the sake of His father’s promise, would voluntarily submit himself to “the horror” of crucifixion. The description in the Gospel of Luke that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ was in such agony of spirit that sweat fell to the ground “like great drops of blood” suddenly had new meaning. God asking Abraham to sacrifice “his only son” now had real significance, especially when you realize that God didn’t make Abraham actually go through with what God Himself would do 2000 years later.
But, overshadowing all these thoughts was the reality of crucifixion itself, preceded by the beatings of the Roman soldiers. I never want to forget those realities, so as Easter 2005 approached I ordered the DVD and with one exception, every year since, on the afternoon Good Friday, I stop whatever I’m doing; shut off the phones, the computer and draw the blinds. Then I watch again, “The Passion of The Christ.” That way, I will always have a fresh reminder of what God’s love and the sacrifice it required, really is. And each time I see it, some new significance; some new insight; some new understanding of a specific act or scene shakes me once again.

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