Essence of His death. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.” John 3 v 16-17 (GNB)
In Church calendar, April 19 is a solemn occasion incongruously called “Good Friday.” The day has been celebrated annually since 4th Century AD. On this day, Christians worldwide remember the death on the cross of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose ministry began around 29 AD and lasted only three years, but so much happened during that short period, as recorded in the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Jesus was crucified at a place called Golgotha in Jerusalem. He was only 33 years old and agonized on the cross for six hours before he died and was buried in a tomb offered by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin. The colour theme for Good Friday is black. The altar in all churches will be bare and not covered by cloth and many churches will hold a three-hour service from 12 to 3pm to commemorate Christ’s passion or suffering on the cross.
In an interesting article titled, Sacred Suicide, published in Transition magazine No. 21 of 1965, Prof Ali Mazrui (RIP) who was one of my favourite teachers at Makerere University (1967-1970) argued that Jesus Christ’s death could be classified as sacred suicide. He begins by posing a rather provocative question: “Did Jesus commit suicide?”
“A startling question! A question which, to Christians and Muslims alike, verges on blasphemy. Some might even assert that it is blasphemy. But that would be an exaggeration. This is a spiritual impotence in inquiry and saves it from sinning. Only answers have the capacity to blaspheme,” writes Mazrui.
Mazrui argues that the question posed is important, “because the death of Jesus dramatizes the difficulties of disentangling martyrdom from self-embraced death. Those difficulties are partly logical and partly moral.”
As a devout Christian, I believe what the Holy Scriptures teach about the life, teachings and death of Jesus Christ which were, in fact, foretold by the prophets many centuries before he was born. Jesus came to fulfil the will of God, his Father in heaven. May His holy name be glorified and praised!
The purpose and goal of Jesus Christ’s coming and death on the cross is provided, inter alia, by the Apostle John who writes,
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.” John 3 v 16-17 (GNB)
The meaning of Good Friday
First, suffering, especially for a just cause, is an essential aspect of Christian witness. Jesus suffered physically, mentally and psychologically, which made Him cry out and ask why His Father had abandoned him.
The suffering Jesus endured was prophesised by Isaiah and is recorded in chapter 53 of his book which is often read on Good Friday. Jesus as the suffering servant of God is the theme of this classic reading.
The suffering Jesus experienced and endured during His trial and crucifixion would in contemporary jurisprudence be treated as cruel, degrading and unusual punishment by any reasonable court. Jesus suffered on the cross to pay the price for our sins. Thank you, Jesus.
Second, forgiveness which lies at the heart of Christian faith and practice and Jesus set a powerful example while dying on the cross. As one who harboured no bitterness, grudge and ill will towards His tormentors, Jesus prayed to God to forgive those who terrorised and tortured him to death.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” He prayed. I wonder how many Ugandans can do likewise, but it is a challenge for all of us who profess to be Christians.
Third, reconciliation - Jesus Christ’s death on the cross reconciled sinners, you and me, with God who is our Father in heaven. As the Apostle Paul argues at length, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection reconciled Jews and Gentiles.
We are called upon to follow that good example and work actively for reconciliation in Uganda which has been deeply divided by unpatriotic men along political, regional and tribal grounds. In this regard, the proposed National Dialogue is necessary activity and the sooner it takes place, the better for our beloved country.