We Cannot Look Away

Here we stand on Good Friday in the shadow of the cross. Jesus is dying on it before our eyes. Terribly, painfully, and senselessly. 

We did this, all of us. We didn’t stop it. We were silent when we should have shouted. We were cowards when we should have been brave. We pretended not to see. We didn’t stop it. We let it happen.

We did this, all of us.

And we keep doing it. We let innocent people suffer. Not wanting to make our own lives uncomfortable, we pretend not to see what isn’t right. We don’t want to admit that we got lucky. So we don’t want to admit it when things aren’t fair. We would have to share then. We would have to sacrifice. We would have to risk. 

We do this, all of us.

Don’t look away.

That is what Good Friday is meant to be: the day when we are forced to look at our failings and what they have made. When we are forced to see the cross, not as salvation, not as redemption, but as the sum of all the cruelty and selfishness and cowardice and neglect of humanity.  It is all up there, on the cross. Jesus is up there, dying on the cross for all of us.

Don’t look away.

Imagine the shame and grief of the disciples in the moment. Judas who traded Jesus for silver. Peter who denied Jesus three times to save his own skin. The disciples who could not even stay awake to sit with Jesus on his last night, while he prayed in the darkness for God’s guidance at Gethsemane. Even Mary and his mother, so desperate to save Jesus, but finding themselves powerless to do so.

Who is that but all of us? Don’t we choose our own silver over life? Don’t we deny what is wrong in the world – what is unequal and unfair – to keep our life the way it is? Don’t we fall asleep to injustice and hardship because it is too exhausting, or too overwhelming? Don’t we feel so powerless to help, at times, that all we can do is stand by and watch a wrong happen? 

This is all of us: perpetrators like Judas, pawns like the angry mob, deniers like Peter, helpless bystanders like the two Marys.

If we do not stand here on Good Friday, and own our part, and face our truth, then none of it means anything. Not the long journey that Jesus made from Bethlehem. Not the ministry of love and hope that he taught us. Not the sacrifice he makes now, bleeding on the cross.

If we do not see what is wrong – where we ourselves go wrong – then we can’t make anything right. 

So don’t look away.

Good Friday is the bad day right before Easter. It isn’t a story to make the drama of Easter land better. It is not in the past. All around us people are paying a price not of their own making. It matters that where you live in Canada and what race you are factors into how well you have fared during this pandemic and how many people you have lost to the virus. It matters that people in power – people in our military, and in politics, and in business – still think they can assault and harass with impunity. It matters that we have to talk about taking names off resumes so that everyone will have a fair shot at a job. It matters that the richest countries in the world are getting almost all the vaccines, while the poorest wait for our leftovers. It matters that refugees linger in camps, and people are so desperate to flee the terrible conditions of their home country that they will risk their lives on rough waters to be free.  

All of this matters. It has to matter.

These are our Good Fridays, happening right now. 

Do NOT look away.

Maybe we’re thinking – hasn’t this year been hard enough? Can’t we just skip to Easter. No, we cannot. Good Fridays don’t happen when it is easy. They don’t happen when it is convenient. They don’t happen when we have the time to deal with them. The suffering of Good Friday is happening all the time, all around us. The whole point of the gospel is to prepare us to face it, to show us a way to fix it, to move society from Good Friday to Easter. Jesus’s dying on the cross right now is a lesson in standing up for values that make a difference. 

So to hear the good news, we must see the hardest of truths. The first Good Friday happened because of humanity. And all the ones that have happened since were because of humanity. 

What is Good about this day, this bleakest hour, this murderous moment? An innocent man – a great and peaceful teacher – is dying. 

There is only one way this day earns the name Good Friday:  if we take all that is wrong and terrible and make something right come out of it. 

The ministry of Jesus was built on the hope – the belief – that humanity could create good from bad. It was built on the faith that we can turn things around, that we are worthy to be charged with this duty. 

We did this, all of us. And we do it still. 

But we have the power to make this sacrifice of Jesus count. We have the power to make his faith in us mean something. We have the power to see the sun set on this day and rise on a better one.   

We cannot look away.

Amen

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