Friday, April 2, 2010
Good Friday and the Atonement
In our observance of Good Friday (also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday, and Black Friday), we solemnly view the suffering and death of Jesus with an eye to Sunday--the day that we celebrate his resurrection. We would never observe Good Friday and then skip Easter. Without Easter Sunday, Good Friday is just another day that a good person dies a bad death.
It is interesting to me that, in our debates about the Atonement (trying to answer the question, Why did Jesus die?), we sometimes act as though Good Friday is the most important part of the story. If the death of Jesus, by itself, accomplishes something for God (assuaging his anger toward sinful humanity, setting the scales of justice right, relieving the offense against God's holiness, etc.), then the cross is really where the story ends. The death of the Innocent One somehow fixes everything that has gone wrong. The resurrection is just a bonus.
It is significant to me that the church has traditionally tied the events of Holy Week together, culminating in Easter, then moving toward the observance of Pentecost and the movement into Ordinary Time, where we live out the implications of God's work in the world, one day at a time.
The death of Jesus is truly significant, but not when it is seen as an isolated, transactional event that satisfies a need that exists in the heart of God. The story is bigger than that.