The Terrifying Thing about Good Friday

ImageWhatever you think of the “necessity” of Jesus dying, the facts are that he was crucified. That is how he died. That a figure named Jesus was likely crucified is one of the most historically provable facts about him, in that it’s testified to by several external historical sources.

As Borg and Crossan remind us over and over crucifixion was a very specific penalty for a very specific kind of “crime.” It was a political penalty, delivered by political authorities. The powerful Roman Empire had no reason to bend to the feckless religious leadership in any of the lands they’d conquered, much less Israel. Therefore, if you’re one of those Christians who still embraces the idea that “the Jews killed Jesus” it’s beyond time to let that go.

Jesus was murdered at the hands of the state, in a method reserved for criminals and enemies of the state…insurrectionists, foreigners and revolutionaries.

Whatever else Jesus did in his life, it’s impossible to explain away that died because he got crossways with Rome. He got crossways with political power. This religious leader died because of something that frightened political leaders.

In a sense, then, my own theology tells me that much of the talk of a “necessary” death (most atonement talk) is a way for us to avoid this terribly uncomfortable truth. It’s a lot easier, and strangely more comforting, to believe in a savior who takes away our personal sins, than one who stood up to the Powers That Be and paid the ultimate price.

Because, if he stood up to the Powers That Be…as we’ve just noted the real evidence suggests he must have…then what else could he have meant for us to do, when he told us to “take up your cross and follow me?”

And that is what’s truly terrifying about Good Friday.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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