Throughout the centuries since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, mankind has struggled to make sense of Jesus, and as is our tendency, we tend to go to extremes in our thinking. The great heresies of Christianity mostly center on the nature of Christ, and again, in our extreme thinking, we tend to try to make Him either more like us or less like us, depending on our comfort zone. Perhaps the greatest heresy of all time was the Arian heresy, wherein Arius taught in the third and fourth century that Jesus was not fully divine, that He was created – Arius wanted Jesus to be more like us. The opposite of Arianism would be “Docetism: The idea that Jesus Christ was a totally divine being who only appeared to be human… For docetists, Jesus was with us, but never really of us, and thus didn’t really suffer, and (for most docetists) didn’t really die.”1
All of this extreme thinking speaks to the lengths humans will go to to explain the unexplainable, to try to wrap our minds around a God we cannot fully understand and a power that cannot be grasped.
Good Friday, though, is Ground Zero for this kind of thinking, because the events of Good Friday force the question. It’s not that we can’t understand that God could die as much as it’s that we don’t want God to die, we don’t want Christ to suffer in His divinity anymore than we want Him to suffer in His humanity. And so it becomes easier to mitigate the whole thing, to make it less than what it was.
But the glory of Good Friday is that Jesus was never more God and never more us than He was when He was on the Cross. Christ on the Cross is the best vision of God we can get until we see Him face to face, the Cross is what God wants to tell us about Himself. Humble in His power, sacrificial in His love, desiring not our death but our life, enough to die Himself in our stead.
Jesus on the Cross is also the best vision we can have of Jesus as fully human. Betrayed and hated, mourned and loved, rejected and yet seen by many for the first time as who He truly was and is. Everything it is to be human hung on the Cross that day, and in hanging there, Jesus showed us both what man could do to man and what man could do for man.
I can’t fully grasp and I certainly can’t fully communicate what this all means, and I can only assume that in my lifetime I will make little progress in plumbing the unsearchable depths of the mystery of Christ on the Cross. But what we do here today allows us to live that mystery, to ponder it all the more in our hearts, to look upon Him whom we pierced, and know that He did it all for us.