|Georges Rouault, "The Way To Calvary," 1891|
The cross is the location of love if we will allow it to be the location of death, despair, God-forsakenness, and torture that it truly is. We have tried so hard, for so long, to keep Jesus off of the cross. The crosses in our (Protestant) churches rarely have a body on them and yet it is a body, a broken and disfigured body, which saves us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "only the suffering God can help us."
For Jurgen Moltmann, “On the cross of Christ God cuts [God]self off from [God]self. [God] delivers [God]self up in order to be ours and to be with us, right into the desolation of God-forsakenness itself… Nothing is shut off from God” (Moltmann, Experiences of God, 16).
For Paul Tillich, God is revealed in the crucified Christ “who cried to God who remained his God after the God of confidence had left him in the darkness of doubt and meaninglessness” (The Courage To Be, 188).
For Karl Barth, the cross is the event through which the solidarity of God with humanity is manifest, “…the self-humiliation of God in His Son is genuine and actual, and therefore there is no reservation in respect of His solidarity with us....[God] did become...the brother of [humanity], threatened with [humanity], harassed and assalted with [humanity], with [people] in the stream which hurries downwards to the abyss, hastening with [them] to death, to the cessation of being and nothingness...God cries with man in his need” (Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.1.59.2).
N.T. Wright, has put it like this, “With his shameful, chaotic, horrible death he has gone to the very bottom, to the darkest and deepest place of ruin, and has planted there the sign that says 'Rescued'" (Wright, Christians at the Cross, 57).
And Andrew Root has written, "...the God of life through the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection has made death and despair the very location of God's being" (Root, The Promise of Despair, 74).
We cannot skip past the despair of the cross... we must weep on Good Friday in order to laugh on Easter Sunday for the promise of Easter and the pain of Good Friday are interdependent. The event constituted by both of these holy days is the event not only of the raising of the crucified but the crucifixion of the risen Christ. Gregory of Naziansus said, “what has not been assumed has not been healed; it is what is united to his divinity that is saved. . .” Christ must bear our suffering in order to redeem it. He must take on death in order for life to be found in it.
"The power of Easter is that out of this utter God-forsakenness, out of this place where four-years-olds die, God rises; God is fully God, overcoming the darkness by taking in into Godself. It is into suffering (the suffering of death, nothingness, separation), the suffering of the world, taken on in the suffering of God, that the church is called" -Andrew Root (The Promise of Despair, xxvii).If we miss the suffering - if we try to avoid it, conquer it, pretend it's not there - then the joy of Easter will not be able to penetrate our suffering. If Jesus is not allowed to be unraveled and disfigured, then it is not a crucified Christ that is raised, but a poised and composed Christ. Easter will be the victory of God over whatever we allow to exist on Good Friday. We must allow God to take our suffering, to know us in our darkness and in our despair, in order for God to be light and life for us in those places. We are invited to participate in the suffering of Christ so that we can experience Christ's resurrection.
So on this Good Friday, may we find God in the places where we do not want to find God. May we expose our suffering to God. May we weep on Good Friday so that we may laugh on Easter Sunday. May we be free to be exposed, for “…when we bring our griefs and sorrows within the story of God’s own grief and sorrow, and allow them to be held there, God is able to bring healing to us and new possibilities to our lives" (N.T. Wright, Christians at the Cross, xv).