We are a Christian people. We gather with the whole story before us and the call of Christ to guide us. But have you really listened to our story? It is a story about life—the good, the bad and the ugly of life lived under the heavens. It is a story of immense hope of a Savior to bring freedom (upending the political reality of that day); a religious community that didn’t want change; a kingdom that didn’t want a different king; a god-man who is seemingly betrayed by all.
Good Friday marks the worst of all days—the son of God executed (crucifixion was a form of execution). A people had a chance to change the story but instead shouted ‘Crucify, Crucify, Crucify.’ The most faithful of disciples flee into hiding and Jesus is raised upon an ancient devise of torture and death. And for three hours, our scriptures teach, he suffered until his last breath.
Troubling, horrific, sad, violent, betrayal…the words of Good Friday. Our story is troubling if you really spend time with it. And for the past 2,000 years, we have dared to interpret this day and what it means about God, about humanity, about you and me.
Was the story of Isaac the precursory story of Jesus and God? Was the story of Jesus’ death in some way to appease an angry God as some declare? Or did God make a deal with the devil in Jesus’ blood as a ransom for you and I? Or was it God who we (collectively) crucified, if Jesus was the manifestation of God in human form?
The story of Isaac’s sacrifice is dark and unsettling. It beckons us to ask, “What would you do in such a moment, if we were Abraham?” “Would I sacrifice the promises out of faithfulness?” Or, “Would we institutionalize him for being nuts?”
While I much prefer the happy and goodness stories of our scriptures, our faith is only in part if we ignore these impossible passages. For generations, we have tried to interpret faithfully and well this collection of stories, but truth be told, they leave us in a place of unknowing.
Yet if the key to theology is love, perhaps that is the key that unlocks the door to interpretation. If God is love, as 1 John declares, how might love be the lens through which we interpret? How is love realized in this passage? How has God’s love been manifest?
Long story short, you just might spend a lifetime trying to fully grasp such a story as this. And that is okay. The wrestling leads us to deeper places of discovery and grace; life and love. Keep seeking!