What’s So Good about Good Friday?

Good Friday. What’s good about it? Jesus gets tortured and killed. The apostles are scattered. Evil triumphs.

What looked like a good idea – Jesus going around curing people and teaching stuff – turns into a nightmare.

Now there are two ways to look at Good Friday (and about a thousand more, there is a superfluity of meaning; I’m not going to get into more than just these two). The first is that Jesus made a big mistake somewhere, and this is what happens when you make mistakes in an unforgiving world: you end up tortured and killed.

The second is that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing; no mistakes involved. He knew he was going to end up dead, he knew his behavior would get him killed. And he did it anyway.

In virtue ethics, every moral virtue is a mean between two vices. For Jesus, were his actions cowardice, courage, or foolhardiness? Cowardice would be excessive fear preventing the attainment of the good (because you don’t pursue it), and foolhardiness is deficient fear preventing the attainment of the good (because you die before getting it). Courage, of course, is the proper amount of fear, which hopefully gets you to the good – facing the dangers yet still evading them, hopefully, unless they get you and you fail anyway.

The question then becomes: did Jesus attain his good? And that depends on whether one believes or not. For the Christian he does attain it, and precisely in his death does he attain it, proving that death is not the end and destroying the power of sin. For the non-Christian Jesus fails. He’s dead. It’s all more like a bad mistake.  Whoops.  Next time be quiet.  It’ll just work out better…

I’m in the Christian camp, so I think Jesus attained the good, was courageous in doing it, and all that.  He didn’t make a mistake, he knew exactly what he was doing, he knew it would get him killed, and he did it anyway. Good guy = dead guy. Looks to me more like the world failed than Jesus.

What does it mean for the world to fail? Jesus seemed like a good enough guy.  He healed people, he preached love and stuff, nice things. And he gets killed for it. Humans did it. God comes to fix things up, sends the repairman for reality, and we kill the repairman. Dang. My bad.

But precisely in that death reality gets repaired, or rather the deeper reality is revealed that things were never so desperately broken as we thought they were. Death is not the end, was never the whole end. God always knew what was going on, was always in charge. And when good people get killed, they don’t actually lose – they win. It’s the world that loses. Love is stronger than death.

So the final thought I’ve been pondering today is this.  The world is a bad place.  It takes good people and kills them. If you are a good person, this is what you can expect too. Don’t expect praise. Expect that the world will eat you and spit out your bones. And don’t expect more than that, because God sure didn’t. Jesus knew what he was getting in to.

But. But. But… This is actually okay. Even good. Facing down an evil system is good. Jesus shows that good can fight with evil and despite losses, still win.  And this is inspiring. It should inspire us to courage. We may well do everything right, and end up treated pretty darn badly for it, maybe even die. But we must do it anyway. Take on the world. How else is anything ever made good? Cowardice is being content with hell.  Courage is telling hell to go where it belongs.

Pursuing good is no mistake.  Jesus did not make a mistake. And taking flak for it is no mistake either, it is to be expected. This is what the world does to people. But face it anyway. Because it’s the right thing to do.

So is Good Friday any good? Yup. Jesus showed us the good path, told hell to go to hell. And hopefully for our own goods and the good of our world, we can too.

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