Killing the Author of Life
For Good Friday, Andrea Williams reflects on the weight of humanity's sending Jesus to the cross, and the good news that through his resurrection, he turned "our darkest days to light".
The strangest of realisations came upon me in recent weeks. As a member of the General Synod of the Church of England I am part of the 'religious establishment' of 21st Century Britain.
In February we were unable to proclaim God's clear and perfect Truth on marriage as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 19. We rejected Jesus' words and so rejected Jesus.
I realised, in a profound and fresh way, that if Jesus were on trial today, we were the religious leaders that would put him to death. We do not care about him enough to be prepared to come into conflict with the world.
I don't want to single out the Church of England. As I work and bring cases in the Courts another realisation came to me. As Judges punish those that are in trouble just for loving Jesus and for being obedient to him then they too would be the Judges that would condemn Jesus to death and wash their hands of his blood.
And then there is the baying crowd that chose Barabbas, that refused to speak up for justice… so, all of us. I tend to think that if I had been there in Jerusalem on the darkest of days I would have spoken out and stopped the injustice. But would I?
Sin in Eden plunged creation into chaos. Sin at Babel marked the collective pride of mankind. And while every sin is an act of rejecting God, humanity's wickedness reached new heights in the horrifying events of Good Friday.
When we love Jesus, we know that there is glorious life and victory to come on Easter Sunday, but to get there we must pass directly through the darkness of Good Friday. We must remember the day when human malice broke barriers and reached levels of previously unmatched atrocity. The Messiah, the King, the one who came to save mankind, was nailed to a tree, and left to die.
God could have come in judgement. He could have punished us as we deserve. But he sent Jesus in love. He sent him to save us, to put things right, to bring life, not death.
But we did not welcome him.
The apostle Peter preached to the crowd at Solomon's Colonnade:
"You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life…" (Acts 3:13-15)
It's tempting to point the finger – to say "I wasn't there, it was the religious leaders". But every time we don't advocate for Jesus' righteousness we deny him, we turn away, and we cry "let him be crucified".
We do not stand apart from this. Whether we are part of the religious establishment, part of the judiciary or part of the crowd, this is what we do to Jesus. Humanity has never heaped upon itself more self-condemning guilt than on Good Friday. This simple phrase — you killed — pierces through all vain excuses.
It was a conspiracy to kill the man who is God, and success in the evil plot has stained our hands with God's own blood, blood on the hands of both those that schemed and those that acquiesced.
This is why Good Friday was the most horrible sin the world ever witnessed. And this year I understand it in a new way.
The day we killed God
Good Friday is the day on which human beings — human beings who wanted to be like gods — killed the God who became human; the day on which the Holy One of God, God himself, truly dies, voluntarily and yet because of human guilt — without any seed of life remaining in him. Good Friday is not, like winter, a transitional stage — no, it is genuinely the end, the end of guilty humanity and the final judgment that humanity has pronounced upon itself.
If God's history among human beings had ended on Good Friday, then the final pronouncement over humankind would be guilt, rebellion, godlessness, meaninglessness and despair.
And our faith would be futile.
This is the awful memory Good Friday presses on us.
All our culture, all our art, all our learning, all our hopes, have come to a meaningless end once we have heaped on our own heads the murder of God's only Son.
Thank God, the story doesn't end here, but Good Friday presses us to imagine if it did. What if the story ended at the cross? What if the God-rejecting sin of humanity wrought despair to life now and nothing short of a godforsaken despair for eternity?
Times of Refreshing
But sinful mankind does not get the last word. How appropriate the prayer of the dying Christ — "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".
Peter continued in Jerusalem:
"Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus." (Acts 3:17-20)
God turned the darkest of days to light.
Through Jesus, we can be forgiven. And if we truly repent, he promises to wipe out our sins, to remember them no more. He promises times of refreshing.
Even to the crowd, who said "His blood be on us and on our children". Even to the judges. Even to the religious establishment. Even to all people, to nations.
Friday is the darkest of days, yet it is good.