The Inside Job
Today is Good Friday – if I’m being honest its not really my favourite day in the Christian calendar. I don’t like to re-read the story, I can’t bear to watch anything about the crucifixion, I’d prefer to rush past it into the joy and celebration of Easter. Perhaps you can relate?
Good Friday often feels like a necessary, but brief stop on the journey to the joy of Easter morning. But this year can I invite you to slow down a little and just linger a little longer as we unpack why, particularly this year, this is such a key day in our calendar?
A couple of weeks ago our Eden Leaders spent some time thinking over their experiences of the Covid Pandemic. What had stood out to us, how had we felt about it? Themes of loss, loneliness and isolation, uncertainty and grief resonated loudly. The day we met marked the anniversary of the first lockdown and it was a poignant moment to stop and reflect. Like many in the nation the losses for some had been greater than for others, the grief more raw in certain cases, the isolation more pronounced. But each of us had felt pain this past year in new ways.
Often those of us who move into communities struggling against poverty can struggle to personally relate to the pain and grief that many of our neighbours carry. We have been shielded from the harsh effects of growing up in a divided society. This year however that has shifted a little. We’ve all gone through the same storm (though of course our ‘boats’ have remained significantly different). We’ve all experienced a new fragility and vulnerability that is usually rare in a self-confident society.
In his excellent book, The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann states that,
“The cross is the assurance that effective prophetic criticism is done not by an outsider but always by one who must embrace the grief, enter into the death, and know the pain of the criticized one.”
Jesus fulfilled this brief entirely – he became the ultimate insider. As Paul states in his beautiful reflection on the incarnation of Jesus in his letter to the Philippians,
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
(Phil 2: 5-8)
In taking on human nature Jesus embraced grief, entered into death and knew pain. As his followers we are called to do the same. But this is something our nature and our society often leads us to stubbornly resist. Who really wants to grieve, suffer and experience pain if we can avoid it right? However, grief, pain and death have visited us all this past year, more than ever.
Paul goes on to say;
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
It is only through taking on human nature, through submission of his power and privilege and ultimately through surrender of his life that Jesus defeated the power of death for us all. We’re not necessarily called to physically die in such a manner, but as his followers we aren’t to shy away from grief, suffering and pain. As we surrender our selfishness, comforts and ambitions we will experience grief, suffering and pain. But as we are emptied of self, we are filled with him. We are reborn with a new hope, deeper, more resilient and more alive than ever.
By Sarah Small