MARCH 26 ― Yesterday was Good Friday. It’s a day when Christians may look extra gloomy; it’s also an evening where you’d be wise to avoid roads next to huge churches (unless you’re going for service or mass yourself). Some Christians may even let it slip that it’s the “holiest day” in the Christian calendar, and they’d be right.
Basically, there’s something “special” about this particular Friday. In some churches, the occasion may even resemble a funeral. People go to church in black, are solemn throughout and leave quietly with hardly a word.
Why all this? What’s happening? Better yet, what ‘happened such that today most churches have a cross in front of their sanctuaries?
Thanks to Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, everybody knows and has “seen”Jesus beaten up and crucified ― but what does that mean theologically? What’s the big deal about the “passion of the Christ”? What was Jesus’ bleeding and dying supposed to have accomplished in the “spiritual” realms?
Here are four explanations of what “transpired” (between God, the world, and everything in between…) on that dark day, two millennia ago…
#1 ― God paid off our debts / The Legal-Economic View
This is the classic one.
Because of how messed-up we are, we owe some evil Tan Sri north of RM10 million. There is no way in galactic heaven or hell we’ll be able to pay the bill. And if we don’t, we’ll get iced, smoked, shipped off to Bangkok in a box or just thrown into jail forever.
Now, my friends care for me and all. They want to help me out of the rut, but guess what? They owe the Tan Sri shite-loads of money, too!
So along comes this benevolent Tan Sri. He looks at all the miserable jokers ― and basically everyone in the country is afflicted ― who can barely pay their Tenaga bill let alone clear 7-figure debts.
This second Tan Sri, full of compassion, decides not only to settle all the debts of the rakyat but also to suffer under the harsh employment of the first Tan Sri because that cruel mofo wasn’t only about Obligation but also about Humiliation.
God is like the second Tan Sri.
This perspective explains why Jesus had to suffer so badly; the severity of the “passion of the Christ” reflects the seriousness of the “debt” owed. The world owes a tyrant an unpayable fee, an infinite-ass ransom.
#2 ― God healed our terminal illness / The Medical View
The world is sick. Our industries, wars, cities, lifestyles, etc. have turned Society into an ICU patient. We’ve over-eaten and under-exercised, we’ve filled our minds and bodies with filth and junk, we’re like a diarrhea victim not caring and continuing to gorge himself at an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.
So we’re, like, terminally ill with a self-nurtured disease which lacks a cure. Our very blood is poisoned. How to survive? Only if somebody with 200 per cent Wolverine-ish self-regenerative DNA gives us all his blood… and dies in the process. So, God gives us His blood, He gives us His life in exchange for our death.
Ditto, Good Friday.
This perspective focuses on humanity’s self-destructive mode of existence. It also answers that Sunday school question (asked by adults, too), “Why do Christians always talk about being saved by Jesus’ blood?! Why is church always so “bloody” ah?!”
#3 ― God loved us and isn’t ashamed to show it / The Relational View
There’s this Chinese family. Father passed away, so mum had to raise her only son. Of course, eventually, the son grew up and ― like most Malaysian kids ― graduated from liking toys to loving bigger toys. Being the typically presumptious I’m-Entitled-To-Everything hot-head he started to obsess over the “fast track” or the rat race (same diff).
His mum tried to warn him against materialism, etc. but being the high-IQ genius he is, he told her off every time. Push came to shove, he hated her more and more, and one year told her to give him whatever inheritance she had, and get lost.
The son moved out, cursing his mum as he left.
Many months later, Chinese New Year was about to happen. During this time, the mum kept calling her son on the phone ― no use. Son refused to keep in touch.
But the mum continued to love the son. And on Chinese New Year’s Eve, she did something no Asian parent would do for their asshole kids. She found out his address via a relative, she cooked a Reunion Dinner meal, she went to the son’s house and ― stop the press ― she knelt down in front of the son and asked him to have dinner with her.
Lo and behold, this act of self-humiliation for the sake of love melted the son’s ice-cold heart, he suddenly “saw” what a prick he had become, he broke down, he urged his mum to get up, they had dinner and life was never the same after that.
A little over-the-top, but you get the connection with Good Friday. The world is the son and God is the mum.
This third perspective has God doing what no Senior Authority-Figure would do, but persisting nevertheless because only radical acts of love can break down hatred and indifference.
#4 ― God fought for us / The Military View
Finally, this is known as the Christus Victor perspective. Imagine the world being like a country controlled by psychotics who execute innocent civilians for breakfast and do so in the name of the Almighty.
These self-proclaimed warriors gradually take over an entire region. Then, imagine a Coalition of countries sending in wave after wave of soldiers to liberate the area from the sickos who, unfortunately, have seriously powerful bombs and missiles.
Wave after wave of casualties, losses and bodies. Until, at least, the first city is captured and it’s only a matter of time before the good guys win.
Good Friday is that first invasion, that first assault, that first great sacrifice so a crucial beachhead can be established. Think World War II, Omaha Beach on D-Day, 1944.
So, now we have an idea of why Christians look especially glum yesterday. The cross of Jesus speaks about suffering and death towards ― among other things ― paying back an infinite debt, providing extraordinary healing, showing amazing grace and love, and winning a great battle (see Note 1).
Easter Sunday is another moment, just as tremendous. But before that, Friday must be duly remembered.
Note 1: We can also see how weird it is when certain groups feel terrified by the sight of crosses in Malaysian landmarks. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and everything to be in awe of.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.