Today is Good Friday. And while it might be tempting to avoid this day and go directly to Easter, I believe if we do, we will miss out on the radical and compassionate Jesus we are called to follow.
For, it is the cross that reminds us that Jesus – the one who is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords – is not the kind of ruler our world expects, celebrates, or uplifts. Rather, when we look to the cross, we see a different kind of king in which we are to follow.
We see a king who is wearing a crown of thorns rather than a crown of jewels and gold. We see a king who is stripped down to his skin, bullied and spit upon, beaten and mocked for proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is not just for those on top, but rather is a Kingdom for all.
We see a king who shows up in the midst of great suffering and fear. Who hangs on a cross between two criminals on death row – offering forgiveness and compassion to those who are most vulnerable.
We see a king who chooses to save the entire world.
With his arms outstretched, we hear him crying out to us: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
And in his final breaths, we hear him reminding us: “Who is the greatest of all? Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
You see, for Jesus, the way to greatness is not to be first, but rather it is to put others first. To put the well-being and basic needs of those who are vulnerable in front of our own wants, our sense of security, our concerns of offending others or being rejected, and our temptation to want to get ahead.
Our King’s path is not about climbing the social latter and befriending and caring for only those who have something to offer us. Rather, Jesus’ path to greatness is tearing down all walls that divide and welcoming and walking alongside those who suffer, including and especially those the world deems as the last and the least.
When we follow Jesus toward the cross, we see our loving God – who is with us in the flesh – perform a radical act of love that trumps hate.
But, our journey following Jesus does not end here. While we know the tragedy that takes place on the cross, we can have hope. For Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. And we will soon find ourselves at the empty tomb.