Early on Good Friday

March 20th, 2008

The universe is blind to it. No one on earth knows it, except Jesus himself. The earth does not know it. Its creatures do not know it: Soon, the Lord of creation will die. Creation will kill her king. Somehow, in God’s mercy, this won’t mean that all is erased. Instead of absolute, final entropy, order will be restored. Time and space will not be extinguished. Instead, time will restart, will begin to run forward to the New Eden.

He has spent the night enduring a contemptible show trial. All along, he knew the outcome better than the conspirators. They knew what they wanted to do to him, but were fumbling for a way to do it: how to make a murder look noble and good. The powerful have always hit this exasperating limit: killing is easy enough, but the PR angle is hard to control. Maybe they could make blasphemy stick? Late in the night, they settled on blasphemy, reason enough to ratchet up their outrage and slap him around, spit on him. It was humiliating.

The thought is no comfort, but two thousand years later, the techniques would be much more sophisticated, the humiliation even more potent. Car batteries hooked up to genitals, digital cameras at the ready to snap the prisoner in staged porn scenarios, waterboarding to put the fear of death in one–all of this done by underlings on auto-pilot, so the leaders are off the hook. Yes, his night could have been even worse. But it was still awful.

But now, after a night that was so very long, so very lonely, things are quickly getting worse. The scourging was very bad. Now the soldiers are showing that bored soldiers with a helpless victim do not change much over time. Every blow they land hurts more than anything he’s ever felt. What lies ahead is unthinkable. The Romans knew how to do an execution. Modern innovations cannot improve upon crucifixion for drawn out agony.

As thorns are being jammed down on his head, as he reels from each blow, he may reckon that this is still the easier part, bearable by comparison to the cross. But the worst thing, his greatest fear, is the weight of sin and the curse of God. Soon it will crush him. He knows it will kill him; none of the men now beating him could guess how much more effective spiritual execution will be.

And so, as this painful morning drags on, he knows that the long night’s suffering has not gotten him very far down the path he dreads: the very worst is still coming. The Lord of creation will let himself be lynched on a tree to show the lynch mob mercy.

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