By the Rev. Eric Long
It’s been a bad news decade and a half. Wars without end, economic collapse and then stagnation, terrorism on our shores, and political dysfunction beyond our wildest fears have become our new normal. They have pushed us to the precipice of the most disturbing political season in memory. We are told our candidates are the product of years of pent-up anger, but for many of us, these candidates fuel the anger and lead the level headed amongst us to despair. It seems to be a low historical moment, and many people are afraid.
Fear generally has an ultimate source: death. We fear not having enough to live on. We fear religious fanatics who would gleefully blow up the world in their fury. We fear the possibility that our country might not be able to fully protect us or give our children the opportunities we’ve taken for granted. And underneath it all is the wellspring of all anxiety: death.
Good Friday is a day that makes sense in such a world. We understand powerful empires sacrificing the innocent to maintain control. Grace, mercy, and love getting mowed down by those bent toward hate is too common a tale. Pontius Pilate we know, as he wantonly kills to maintain political control. Chief Priest Caiaphas is a familiar character as well, as he cynically decides, “It is better that one innocent man should die for the people than the entire nation perish” (John 11:50).
Good Friday makes sense. We know this day. We inhabit this reality.
Easter is the shocking intrusion. Tales of new life and empty tombs sound like raving fantasies in our Good Friday world. I suppose that’s why the women saw the stone rolled away, and didn’t think “Jesus is raised,” but assumed someone stole his body. Theft squares with our tragic status quo. New life upends it. I guess that’s also why Mary Magdalene did not initially recognize the resurrected Jesus, because everything in her life conspired to convince her that death always gets the last word, so much so that she couldn’t recognize life even when it walked up and stood right before her.
Easter makes no sense in a Good Friday world. Yet Easter still comes. Resurrection wins the day because of a God who will not play by our rules. Our political power plays, our compromised ways of dealing with one another, our death-filled fears are simply not currencies with which God has to barter. Our God looks into the grave and shouts, “LIFE!” Our God faces down the Pontius Pilates of the world and shouts, “NEWNESS!” Our God stands alive in the midst of his anxiety-ridden followers and shouts, “FEAR NOT!”
My friends, Good Friday is not our end. Good Friday is not where we are to make our home. We do not have to be driven this way and that by the former rules of this world, for God is stepping into the graveyards of our lives and declaring, “ALL THINGS NEW!”
It’s Friday. But Sunday’s coming.
Rejoice! Easter Sunday is here!