“It’s a good thing Jesus never came back,” Craig once told me, “Otherwise we’d have people walking around with little gold electric chairs around their necks.”
You’d have to know my childhood friend and alter ego to understand the context of this kind of statement. There wasn’t any. It might come off as cynical or just silly, but the Big Perspective simply isn’t something people ever can really handle. It takes gobs of time contemplating the universe and letting the moments form themselves, much like a lazy mis-spent childhood.
Good Friday is the dark day of Holy Week, the annual Christian celebration of rebuke, torture, execution and finally redemption. The purpose of holidays has always been to take time away from our lives to contemplate the real meaning of the events being marked, but Good Friday is a bit complicated. How did the life of a preacher come to such a horrible end?
The answer, it seems to me, is one of perspective. Everyone has opinions about the world and how it does and should act. If you assume that nearly everyone is reasonably intelligent the question of right or wrong seems rather petty. Opinions are formed by perspective – a way of looking at the world. Any one person’s perspective may be very narrow or off to the side a bit. Where you stand and what you are willing to see in front of you makes all the difference.
The perspective of the Divine is another thing altogether. You don’t have to believe in God to realize that there the sum of all the possible perspectives of a moment would be utterly overwhelming. It would certainly challenge every opinion about the world held by every single person just about completely.
That kind of challenge only makes most people very angry. Perhaps even murderous.
Yet that is exactly what a holiday like Holy Week is all about. It is supposed to be time spent apart from ordinary life, letting something else sink in slowly. There are many great aids that have come down to us over the years, especially Bach’s “Passion of St John”. But in the end the only thing that matters is allowing the challenge of the Big Perspective to sink in past the anger and resentment it naturally creates.
In the end, I’m rather certain that Craig was right. It’s not that the people of Jesus’ time weren’t ready for a message of love and forgiveness, care and communion. The problem is that people have never been ready for that message because it causes a tremendous amount of trouble deep in the hearts. It requires us all to see the world from far too many perspectives all at once and accept their challenges happily.
Someday, maybe we’ll be up to the challenge. I’m working on it.