Good(Holy) Friday and the Justice of God

The AngloBaptist is wrestling with today, well with the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as the will of God.  He says it’s insane.   I agree we enter the Misterium Tremendum most viscerally here on Good Friday.  The mystery of our faith is terrible. we are shaken, it is Holy.

Oddly we want to judge God, we who are so filled with prejudices and our own petty injustices.  We want to find fault in God’s reaching out to us, because its messy.  Granted in part this is because some interpretations of this day, and of the Atonement certainly have their problems, especially if that one  particular theory based on only one of the New Testament’s metaphors of the meaning of the Crucifixion is taken as the only way to understand Jesus’ death on the Cross. Thus we have an understanding of God’s will through a reduction .  But that particular theory that we are all too familiar with isn’t my concern.  I want to face today what our fixation (either for or against) on a particular theory of the atonement hides from us.  We hide from the meaning of this day, because today we can’t hide from the frightening truth that we and the world aren’t sound.  The world is unstable, we human beings aren’t to be trusted. I’m not to be trusted.  We are to face today what the prophet Isaiah faced, “This isn’t good, I’m disintegrated, I have unclean lips and am from a people of unclean lips.  I’m flawed, I can not stand in the face of the Other, the ground and source of all things and all good and true and just things.” (my paraphrase of Isaiah 6:5)


We can attempt to make sense of today without the incarnation.  That is we can try to make one crucifixion two thousand years ago about, torture, or present injustices and oppression.  We can some how think that Christianity remembered this one guy two thousand years ago as some purely human awakening to our own evil, but really if that’s so our awakening has failed miserably.  But really if God in Jesus Christ didn’t suffer a torturous death by the imperial power of the day, than Jesus’ death is meaningless as meaningless as all other deaths and the hands of the powerful.


In Jesus Christ, God chooses to undergo suffering and violent death.  God enters not only the full human condition into its depths and its despair.  The depths and the despair we often (for good reason0 avoid.  Only if Jesus is the divine human does Jesus’ death on the cross at the hands of the Powers of Jesus’ day make sense.  We can argue and puzzle out the implications of that in our atonement theories, and it is always good to remember in these discussions and arguments that the New Testament writers themselves have many images and metaphors for what God was doing in coming to die on the Cross.  However first we must keep in mind that God’s will here, that the divine human person Jesus struggles with in the Garden (struggles precisely because of this persons humanity and that the divinity is also suffering, God isn’t sparing God anything, insane!), is a will propelled by Love.  We need to remember that God identifies with us and suffer’s injustice torture and execution out of love.  God loves and identifies with us to the point of suffering our own evil that we inflict on each other day in and day out.


Let’s be clear and honest with ourselves: God didn’t invent crucifixion, God didn’t invent torture, or war, or oppression. We human being do these things.  We create empires and war machines, and weapons.  We choose to fight, and overrun our neighbors.  The existence of evil isn’t hard to explain, at least not the sort of evil we are facing on this day.

God appears insane because God enters the darkness knowing what the darkness is.  We want to avoid that darkness, we don’t want to face that it lurks in us.  We don’t want to look into that corner of ourselves.  We want to believe we are at core good, that any bad or evil (for most of us, maybe not Hitler, but maybe Hitler at some point), is really only on the surface.  We want to believe that people like you and me don’t have evil lurking in us but do evil things because of impersonal systems of power and wealth.  But those impersonal systems didn’t create themselves, we created them, we create them, we continue to create them.  We create our demons and then give them power and then they dominate us.  We human beings are the source of evil in the world, and the crazy thing is that God’s solution is to enter into the desolate world we created and suffered and died by the instruments of oppression we humans created.  God went to the depths of our human condition for us out of love.  That was God’s will, that is what was almost too much for the divine human person Jesus to face, but it was out of that love that Jesus Christ didn’t chose to avoid the pain, but chose God’s loving will for humanity and the whole cosmos.

Now we know that God is truly with us.  But why, why would God even want that.  Maybe just Maybe, God’s sense of justice and righteousness depends on this insane love affair with what God created.  God is madly in love with us and the whole universe.

This is not easy to get ones mind around, nor something that is easy to build a tidy system of thought around.

This should blow your mind.

  • Grant

    I like this.  Of course “insane” is an over-used word in everyday speech at this moment in time almost to the point of losing all meaning.  I take its current usage to communicate merely a heightened form of “intense”, as in “That movie was intense” or “No, that movie was insane”.  I suppose being “mad” with love derives from a culture where reasonable mental activity was dispassionate and controlled, whereas love was a falling under the spell of the senses, irrational, beyond mental control or understanding.  I think I prefer to ponder the love of God as “mystery” rather than dragging all the problems that come with “sanity”, “insanity” and our current slang into this.  All that being said, I am finding myself once again as thoroughly perplexed as Tripp by the story.         

    • Larry Kamphausen

      Ya, I don’t think I would have spoken in these terms without Tripp’s post.  But I think there is something to using this common language, with which I might take issue. so yes “insane” can be problematic, and yes “insane” has the meanings you point out, but  also still retain the connotation that Tripp uses (which also has its problems in general).   And yes I think “mad with love” trope comes from understandings of the rational and irrational.  But I was resonating with Tripp’s “insane”.

      Yes, if I was writing for myself, as love of God as “mystery”,  but that is something I’m trying to get at through riffing on Tripp’s wondering about God’s “sanity” and current slang.  

      This a way of speaking in a moment.  Thus maybe another metaphor for what is found in God become human and being executed on Crucifixion.

      and as for being perplexed, that is one sense of having “one’s mind blown”.  If we aren’t perplexed then we probably are misunderstanding what God has done on the Cross.