I like movies that deal with a relatively innocent individual who ends up being attacked unjustly by some other individual, group or shadowy organization. Such stories are predictable: a peaceful life is disrupted, the protagonist turns out to be a retired expert at martial arts, guerilla warfare, improvised weapons manufacturing who has access to unlimited funds, fast cars and airplanes (along with the occasional tank and ballistic missile) and who knows people who freely and quickly fill him (generally it is a “he” in these movies) in on all sorts of top secret details that he needs to know.
Armed with his skills, money, resources and intel, he sets out to destroy the villains, rescue the lady and get his life back. We expect that he will be beaten several times, trapped in an inescapable trap, shot and be involved in at least one car chase. At some point, he will appear to be defeated, maybe even killed. But at some point, he will make a comeback–and he will win. The bad guys will be destroyed in appropriately violent ways and the hero and his new found (or returned) love will settle back down in their peaceful life, at least until the sequel.
I like the movies and the stories because they are predictable, they have car chases, they have improbable feats of “skill”, and because the good guy wins no matter what the odds are. No matter how evil the antagonist; no matter how powerful the opposition group; no matter how high in the government the shadowy organization reaches, the hero wins. And it may be that this appreciation of that particular media genre comes from my faith.
I don’t think it comes because I see myself as the faith equivalent of the movie hero–far from it. If I were in the movie, I would likely be the innocent, uninvolved driver whose car is the first one run off the road in the car chase–and I wouldn’t even be the one that gets to take flight and land in a tree or someone’s dining room. No, I think the reason my faith gets tied up in this sort of movies is that my faith is based on the biggest version of this story.
Jesus’ story has it all, except for the car chase. A quiet hero minding his own business who attracts the attention of a powerful organization who sets out to destroy him; some serious injustice and conspiracy; a betrayal; a beating–and in the end, an execution. But where this story parts company with the movies is that this is a real execution, not something thrown together with special effects, top secret medications and covert assistants in the conspiracy. Jesus dies and the bad guys sit around congratulating themselves on their power and ability to deal with issues.
All this in less than a week–by Friday, the conspirators are ready for a break and settle down to enjoy the holiday. Jesus is dead; the story is over–roll the credits. This is not a good movie–or a good day.
Of course, we know the end of the story. Jesus is the ultimate hero who defeats even death. The whole story gets turned around because everything that the bad guys did was part of the plan from the beginning. Jesus dies–but for the story to end the way it is supposed to end, he has to die. The conspiracy really only does what Jesus knows they are going to do–he uses their free choices to bring about his end.
And that is why a day filled with hatred, injustice, evil conspiracies, betrayals, denials, torture and anything else that our all too human bent towards evil can come up with becomes “Good Friday”. It isn’t good because of what happens that day–it becomes good because of the way God transforms the evil of the day into the ultimate good. Good Friday is only good because of Easter Sunday, the day when the ultimate hero stages the ultimate comeback for the ultimate good.
Good Friday shows us how God takes on the absolute worst that we human beings have to offer and overcome it with the absolute best that he can offer–the power of his unlimited love and grace. Even though there isn’t a car chase, it is still without question the best hero story of all time.
May the peace of God be with you.