As an older child, I put younger-childish ways behind me. With new theological sophistication I grasped that, as the hymn puts it, ‘He died that we might be forgiv’n, He died to make us good’.
Today I’m thinking about Jesus the Good – and how He faced evil on that day long ago. He didn’t resist it violently. He didn’t angrily protest. He didn’t summon heavenly forces to put a stop to this disgrace. He took all that evil threw at Him. He soaked it up. He allowed it to spend itself on Him.
He met evil with forgiveness – “Father, forgive them” – and so it emptied itself into Him and did not return.
Evil died in Jesus the Good.
All of which is very profound. But it becomes sharper when I realise that the evil that poured upon Jesus was not just some abstract metaphysical construct. There was human evil in that mix. Connivance of priests. Bitterness of thieves. Fickleness of crowds. Cowardice of friends. Hostility of kings. Jealousy of foes...
And there was me. Conniving, bitter, fickle, cowardly, hostile, jealous me. Standing right there with conniving, bitter, fickle, cowardly, hostile, jealous you.
And Jesus the Good said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do.”
The ground at the foot of the cross, as someone has put it, is level. We all stand there evil. We all stand there forgiven. We all stand there with the opportunity that, beyond, there is life – life in which we can be made good.
These words from an ordinary little church in Essex summed up well, in my view, the welcome that Good Jesus extends to us all, though we are evil:
Here we try to practise the generous Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This means you may be mixing with
and those who have been bruised,
those who limp and those who mourn,
orphans and widows,
and those wounded by war,
refugees, asylum seekers,
foreigners of all kinds,
citizens of different colour from yourself,
women bishops (yes, there are a few),
and other bishops too,
leaders who are worn out,
clapped out, burnt out,
lesbian and gay couples – even singles,
the wealthy who are trying to get through the eye of the needle,
and the poor who are struggling to maintain their dignity,
the emotionally deprived and harmed,
people of other faiths,
fundamentalists and liberals,
radicals and traditionalists,
those who have failed to love
and those who are afraid to receive love,
those rejected by ministers and their churches,
those who have broken their promises,
those bowed down with burdens,
those who teeter on the brink of breakdown,
those for whom the grip of alcohol or work,
drugs or sex, gambling or unnamed powers is getting stronger,
and those for whom the grip is loosening,
those struggling with faith and doubt,
and goodness knows how many others...
indeed, anyone who is like those Jesus mixed with.
This is not a private club
but a public space open to all people of goodwill.
And though we are not yet strong and vulnerable enough
to show the unconditional love of God at all times,
we hope we are moving in that direction.
We’re all welcome into God’s forgiveness. He alone can make us good.
Have a good Good Friday.