Reflections on the Good Friday and Easter Gospels

Good Friday: John 18 & 19

Powerlessness, suffering and injustice are experiences the human race knows very well.  And they lie at the heart of these stories.  Jesus is revealed, not as a far-off ruler, but as someone who is with us in the midst of these things.

He is human—and so bears these experiences alongside us.  But he is also divine—and so his bearing of judgment, hatred and violence also vanquishes them.

Jesus becomes our sacrifice.  He is scapegoated by humans unnerved and disappointed by his message.  Some are unnerved because his truth-telling challenges their lies and their manipulation.  Others are disappointed, having expected Jesus to be a very different kind of Messiah.They thought he would impose God’s Kingdom at the end of a sword.  But, as Jesus tells his disciples, those who live by the sword die by the sword.  A Kingdom imposed by violence and fear could not be God’s Kingdom.

The Kingdom Jesus brings in is one where domination, violence and judgement are conquered by self-giving love.  This is his new creation, born in the water and the blood which flow from his side.  As we are reminded on Maundy Thursday, we taste and see this new creation both in the sacramental life of the church and in practical acts of love.

Easter Vigil: Luke 24.1-12   Easter Day: John 20.1-9

The Easter Gospels are joyful; but they are also filled with confusion and even fear.  Expectations are upset. What was secure is turned upside-down.   Jesus’ journey from death to new life is foreshadowed by the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.  That too was a disorienting experience—an uncertain journey, requiring courage and faith.

Neither exodus nor Easter spell an immediate end to struggle and pain.  The early Church soon faced the realities of persecution and violence.

Resurrection life is found where human beings cease to see their good as something to be won over against others, and cease to scapegoat those who are unlike them.  Our risen Lord was the ultimate scapegoat – the friend and healer of those his society rejected, the one crucified ‘outside the gate’.  The Gospels make the extraordinary claim that this radical and sacrificial identification with outcasts and scapegoats is the way to life all its fullness.

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