Another Good Friday’s come. As Marcie Alvis Walker writes, “Here’s the story: Jesus died an unjust and corrupt death at the hands of the highest political and religious leaders because his fellow citizens took a vote on it and said, ‘Give us Jesus Barabbas. Crucify Jesus Christ!’ And Pilate, a Supreme Court of one, gave the people what they wanted.”
The State-sanctioned execution of an innocent man. What could possibly be good in a story like that?
Alvis Walker continues. “How did this Karfreitag–this sorrow, this lament, this dark silence–become “Good” Friday? Are we missing something by not calling a spade a spade? Was Jesus an innocent man who was publically and legally murdered while the crowds watched and cheered his death, or not? …Because until we can call his death an unjust capital murder, we can’t call it “good” or holy.” Nothing is good unless we first tell the whole truth about it, and that includes our redemption.
See, a really important thing I have learned over the years is that multiple things can be true at the same time. At some level, we all can understand that to be true. It’s something that psychologists study as basic human development; the inability to hold space for more than one reality is a sign of lacking a fully developed prefrontal cortex. Understanding more than one truth can exist, even if they appear to be contradictory, is easy enough, we think–to a certain point. Ice cubes are solid, even though they contain the same molecules as water, a liquid. It is still daytime even if the sun is hidden behind thick clouds. A brown-skinned savior carrying his own cross to Golgotha is awful, even if it brings out something good.
It’s uncomfortable to look these ugly truths in the eyes because our Easter story has become so whitewashed and watered down. A part of us has nearly forgotten how raw and brutal the events of that day were. So sometimes we find it easier to turn away from them, to turn to an empty tomb, forgetting about the broken and bloody body that it once held. We want the light, but we don’t want the dark. We want the hope, but we don’t want the horror. We want the resurrection, but we don’t want the death.
Yet both things are true.
And here’s what I’ve realized, friends: for Good Friday to really be good, we need to acknowledge all the bad. If our redemption is to mean anything, we need to admit that so very much is broken in the first place. Walking in the Way, I’ve come to find, means to be honest about the duality of the world we’re living in, how the Kingdom of God is both here and now and also not-yet and to-come. The ugly doesn’t take away from the beautiful but rather, makes it more full. More real. We tell the truth about the darkness, and we also tell the truth about the light.
Because both things are true, but they are not equally true.
Both things are real, but they are not equally real.
Both things are powerful, but they are not equally powerful.
And isn’t that exactly what it means to be a person of faith, to believe in that better truth? A better reality? To believe that the beauty outweighs the mess in the end somehow?
This day isn’t good, not really. Saying that is a real, true, honest thing.
But it’s not the most real or true or honest thing.
The redemption that Easter morning brings us is.
And that is a song I can sing alleluia to.