A “Good Friday” meditation

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Today is traditionally known as Good Friday. Although is not necessarily the day that Jesus was crucified, it’s when we remember that fateful day that had a cosmic impact on all of history.  I’ll admit I’ve always had a difficult time taking my brain and heart and soul through any kind of dance to think of what it was like and reflect on the crucifixion.. not to mention that I am not a fan of glorifying the gory details just to make people feel guilty.

Yet because in the church calendar we choose to take time to remember, lest we forget that this horrible thing happened in history, I take the time today to reflect as best I can. After all, we take time to reflect for other heinous crimes against humanity, don’t we? Any time there is a shooting or a bombing, flowers and candles and vigils fill the area where the even occurred, and many times every year after as people remember the lives lost. It’s how we try to enter into the pain and remember the collective loss.

So that is today for those of us who follow Jesus. We remember that he was killed, brutally and mercilessly. We remember the shaming of his being hung and crucified, we remember the grieving of those who knew him and the callousness of those who beat him, gambled for his clothes, mocked and ridiculed him.  Yet somehow today I look at this story in Matthew chapter 27 differently. Today I hear in the story how he withstood the very hate of humanity….

The Christian story tells us he did this for love, taking the punishment meant for us (this is the penal substitutionary atonement view – or the scapegoat way of looking at it), and I don’t doubt that love was his motive one bit. Yet I can no longer see the love of God with the eyes of punishment, as if God would have punished me instead. It doesn’t resonate with the way I see God show up always rescuing his people in the Old Testament any more, when you consider the big picture.

I have been reading N.T. Wright’s book “The Day the Revolution Began” and it has brought so much sense to the phrase “Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” – which Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3. You see, in the ancient days of Israel the way they experienced the “day of the Lord” or God’s judgement was when another nation would devastate them and take them away as captives. Yet woven throughout the story of scripture there was always a thread of hope, that God would return and rescue them, that he wasn’t done with them and their purpose. Part of what they understood would happen when God rescued them was he would forgive them, forever, for their rebellion (think nationally here, not individually). So Jesus death on the cross was God accomplishing what he said he would, that he would remove “the sin of the land in a single day” (Zech 3:9). God forgave, forever their abdication of being people that reflected the goodness of God in how they lived in community with him as king.

So when Jesus said “It is finished” on the cross, he meant that this promise, this YHWH coming to redeem and restore his people to their original purpose, was done. Their national waywardness was forgiven, and it was time to start anew (which they didn’t realize until his resurrection, but we are not there yet so hold tight). And we know from Luke and Paul’s writings that not only was Israel given a fresh start with Jesus, but every other nation got a “pass” as well – they didn’t have to go through the following and leaving that Israel did. They were invited into YHWH’s plan to restore the world from the very start!

So let’s go back to the part about Jesus withstanding the very hate of humanity. In the gospel stories, we see everything from him being at the mercy of the ruling powers, being lied about, betrayed, beaten, whipped, mocked, and  nailed to a cross, enduring the worst kind of execution (pretty much how the Romans kept the peace). With his death, there would be and end to uprisings and huge gatherings listening to this nobody from Nazareth. Everyone would remain ‘in their place’ and Rome remained in power. Yet the ending of the gospels and the entire rest of the New Testament tells us that something was going on under the surface that they would never understand.

This is a historical story that is one – just one – of the bedrocks of the Christian narrative that fits within and has many symbolic references to the larger story of Israel and their existence as the people of YHWH. Yet the reality of God bearing the hate of humanity is still something that plays out over and over today, isn’t it? God is blamed for natural disasters, sudden losses, and things we just have a difficult time holding and explaining. He is blamed for people’s insensitivity, their ignorance and unwillingness to grow, their hurtful religious views, our personal struggles and pain. We take our full anger out on God (or the universe if we don’t want to believe there is a God) – and many times he doesn’t seem to answer back to refute our accusations. Hm. Just like Jesus on the cross.

I wonder, just wonder, if perhaps some of the picture of love that we need to understand in the message of Good Friday and the cross of the crucifixion, is that God has taken the brunt of human hatred in the past.. and he still is here, bearing it today. Every. Single. Day. Love… bearing us, beating his chest crying “why???”.

This is not to drive a question of bigger picture or purpose – so don’t go there. I just want to sit in the reality that God is able to withstand our worst expression of hatred towards him – because we have done it before – yet it doesn’t stop his pursuit of us, his bedrock belief that we are worth finding and redeeming and restoring.

It’s us, it’s humanity that has to stop to recognize that this is what we continue to do. We rail at God and assume he will never answer, that he is powerless against the greed and bravado of humanity, the machine of government and nations, the storm of our emotions and experiences.

All the while, he forgives, because that is his nature: forgiveness is the nature of the Divine One to us, to call us to better, to remind us we CAN chart a course with him for life, pushing against the darkness we and our communities sometimes get lost in.

So today, Good Friday, I want to challenge you to sit for a moment in the silence and remember not how God hates you but forgives you, not how sinful you are but he’ll take you anyway, but rather the reality that he can bear the worst you can bring and sit with you in it, all the while saying “I love you, I see your pain, but I’m not leaving. I’m with you in it”. Can you see that as one of the biggest expressions of love?

Today, we may sit in the darkness, the hardness of life, the state of the world, and grieve as the disciples must have, thinking their hope died. We don’t like to sit in stuff like this, but sometimes – just sometimes – we must, that we can truly experience what comes next. Hold tight, my friends. The ugliness of the world just looks like it has triumphed. Hold tight.

By Tama Nguyen

I'm an avid reader, tea drinker, and outdoor adventure seeker. I am convinced that God is still out to fix this broken world, and He uses us to do it. Chasing after things that matter...


  1. Thank you Tama – I took the afternoon off and was looking for a Good Friday reading – your blog helps me relate the hate we see in our world and the purpose for which Jesus came into that world. Blessings my sister !


  2. There was a comment near the end which takes me back about 22 years when you said you would sit with me in the ashes, in my grief over not being able to get pregnant. That was you, being Jesus to me.
    Also, I’m so grateful for such a loving, patient God who can handle our anger that He doesn’t even deserve. I know I threw some His way when my mom died. And I know He loved me just the same. What a ridiculously grand love He has for us and I am forever grateful.


  3. I just love the way you articulate your thoughts. I truly hope our paths cross again and we can get a coffee. I’m so blessed by your writing!


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: