No Mercy on Good Friday and Somehow that is Good

“He did not die for the sake of a good world, he died for the sake of an evil world, not for the pious, but for the godless, not for the just, but for the unjust, for the deliverance, the victory and the joy of all, that they might have life.”   Karl Barth, Good Friday, 1957

I hope you had a beautiful Holy Week. Mine began slow and contemplative then took off quickly.

Among my highlights was spending a bit of time at our church’s Sacred Spaces. It’s a self-guided tour of various stations set up throughout our building for prayer and reflection. It’s hard to get to, even if you do work a few hundred yards away, but it’s so worthwhile. Grateful to the wonderful and talented people that make that happen every year.

Sitting there on Friday, I remembered  one of our planning meetings, when we revisited the question of why Good Friday is called “good?” The Googled answer always points us back to the medieval German translation of “God” (Gott) then, in old English morphed into Holy/Good and since Christians ultimately know that Jesus dying for the sins of humanity and being raised to life is good, well, here we are.  My Logos Software and various other helps haven’t provided much more context. Still, I can’t resist that feeling of wishing we could rename something so important but the name is what it is.

Each of our campuses held their own Good Friday services, and I was grateful to serve communion here in Lexington. For one, I love the meaning and practice of communion. Two, it’s such a needed time to meditate on who Jesus is, what the cross and empty tomb are about, and what we as followers are invited to. It truly is a wonderful church practice (we actually have a few legitimate ones).

During the meditation, our campus pastor, Dave, invited us to remember the cross. I was grateful there was no hell-fire and brimstone. There was no overly-emotional appeals. Nor was there a guilt-charged appeal demanding you regret your existence. We’re not that kind of a church.

Yet, there is no goodness in found in over-looking the significance of the cross. In my estimation that would be just as bad of an abuse. It’s in mediating on the cross that we see the worst that Jesus frees us from and it’s on the other side of the empty tomb that we see the life He invites us to live. Thus, the cross isn’t the comma in between Palm Sunday and Easter but rather it’s the first exclamation point, about to be followed by the exclamation of Easter.

And so when I think of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus, I remember the following:

How feeble and easily deceived the human heart is. In this life, a parade can be held in your honor and then in the span of a week, some of the same people can chant for your execution. Just because we celebrate does not mean we know what we are actually cheering for. And just because we are angry, it does not mean we know what we ought to demand.

The absolutely awful, cringing brutality and evil that humanity is capable of. In many ways it’s the same evil brutality. If you watched the news this Holy Week, we heard about the Germanwings Co-pilot that intentionally crashed Flight 9525 p into the French Alps. Then just before Good Friday, Islamist terrorists invaded Garissa University College in Kenya and killed 148 students. The Holy Week attack was pre-meditated, Christians were singled out, preached at, and then executed. We remember that while much evil is arbitrary and random, there is also much evil that is malicious and intentional.

There was no mercy to be found for Jesus. It’s tempting to be so accustomed to the story that we forget this is a Jewish rabbi who because he claimed to be divine and was a threat to the “system,” he was brutally beaten and then killed. He had no history of insurrection or violence and his scandals included not allowing Pharisees to stone an adulterous woman and not rebuking his disciples for not washing their hands in a ritual purification before eating. Of course, the most offensive thing he did (to the “system”) was clear the temple of corruption and calling out a form extortion in the name of God.

This is what the cross is about. Humanity’s worst being hurled upon Jesus unjustifiably – the hate, the rage, the depravity, all the evil, without any trace of mercy. And that’s the meaning that Good Friday held for me during this Lent focused on the nature of mercy – there was no mercy for Jesus. To fully appreciate the beauty and love found in Easter, we must allow ourselves to see the worst aspects of humanity contained here in the misery and ugliness of such a day we call Good Friday.

Easter Reflection coming soon. Thanks for journeying through Lent with me.


  1. Tim,
    Thanks so much for this post!
    Very real.
    (I appreciate the way you present the stark the realities of Jesus’ time/that He faced, alongside the harsh realities we see in our present age.)
    And man– “Just because we celebrate does not mean we know what we are actually cheering for. And just because we are angry, it does not mean we know what we ought to demand.” –SO True!! I think of all the different revolutions & protests around the world we’ve seen in the last ~5 yr. and how many of them have had different outcomes than we would’ve hoped…
    (& I use “we” loosely: not really trying to open a geo-political discussion/can of worms regarding US interests vs. regional/national interests of the protesters/demonstrators… ;-)
    Anyway~ Thanks again for posting, Tim! I enjoy reading your distilled thoughts. (And I hope you & the fam are doing well, as it looks like they are from fb. :)

  2. Andrea, Thanks so much for reading. Also appreciate the affirmations.

    So I really feel it’s the Christian narrative that brings these harsh realities and then the hope, beauty and meaning. If God is real and if Jesus is who said he is, etc. it feels natural to test the happenings of today and the feelings of our hearts against this narrative. Otherwise, it’s noble superstition :)

    Family is well – hope yours is too – will visit your FB page soon to check in. Grace and peace to you.

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