Today is Good Friday. I listened to the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar as I took a long walk and asked God to help me enter into His story. I experienced a shock of realizing just how clueless everyone around Jesus was as He lived, taught, and died. I’m forty-nine years old, and I’ve experienced a lot of Good Fridays, but this year, it hit home just how acutely ignorant everyone around Him was, and the extent to which they completely ignored His story in order to maneuver Him into their own.
But the painful part was the realization that I do this, too. And maybe, so do you.
I heard Judas plead with Jesus to “listen to me”, to get Him on board with Judas’s own good plan for the restoration of their people and I remembered the times I berate God with my own good plan without asking Him much about His.
I heard Simon the Zealot promise Jesus a starring role in the political movement they already had underway and thought about the many ways His name has been used to further political agendas today.
I heard Mary Magdalene sing about her attraction to Jesus but her utter confusion in just how to love Him, and I feel my own confusion about the places and practices of my own worship.
I heard Caiaphas and the other High Priests view Jesus as a threat to their status quo and power and proceed to justify their violent plan to remove Him as “for the benefit of the people”. I see the many ways that powerful people push down their consciences and frame their immoral actions as benevolent. I think about how we convince ourselves and others about our actions, how we justify them. How we know deep down what’s right.
I hear the crowd calling out in praise of Jesus, then reaching out for His help in all the ways they need, and I think about how much of my focus on relationship with Jesus is about me and not Him.
I hear Jesus angrily clearing out the Temple and think about how far afield we’ve gotten, how so many of our churches and church voices have become disfigured, corrupted, so different from how God intended us to be. I think about the anger of God for how we “religious people” misrepresent Him, how desperately we need a reset and for the tables to be turned.
I hear the bewildered sadness of Jesus, who took on a great, self-sacrifical work that no one understood or appreciated, who felt sadness, then anger, then submission. I hear his exhaustion, and I feel mine, and also I want to tell Him I’m so sorry for the times I don’t understand or value what He’s done and what He’s doing.
I hear how people make a mockery of Him and how He lets them and think of how much self-knowledge and restraint that would take.
I hear how none of Jesus’s friends had any real idea that He came to upend it all, how counter-cultural He was, how He was teaching that the path to life comes only through death. Death to self, death to tradition, death to our plans, even the good ones. And what a hard lesson that is, one we have to learn over and over.
I don’t know how to love Him sometimes. Today I do, and it comes from a well of sorrow. Thank God for mercy and the light that follows the darkness.
He’s so much better than we could hope for.