04/09/04 — Good Friday: Time for reflecting, not passing of judgment

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Good Friday: Time for reflecting, not passing of judgment

Seldom does a Good Friday approach with as much attention to the crucifixion of Jesus as in 2004.

It began on Ash Wednesday with the release of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” Actually, it began even earlier with controversy and promotional hype that preceded the release.

Television networks are inclined to pick up on popular themes, and several of them have shown their own films on the life and death of Jesus. Some have been re-enactments and some have been “documentary,” and their allegiance to the Biblical accounts have been varied.

One of the most extravagant was a three-hour, prime-time program on ABC this week. The host of the show was news announcer Peter Jennings, who sought to portray the reporting in the show as historical.

Jennings has made clear that his view of the Biblical story of Christ is not the one that most conservative Christians share, but he certainly is fascinated by it.

This week’s show, called “Jesus and Paul: The Word and the Witness,” focused largely on the apostle Paul. It conveyed the message that it was Paul rather than Jesus who founded Christianity. In fact, however, Jesus himself instructed his followers to spread the message of Christianity. And they did — with, of course, Paul’s inestimable help.

Some of the theologians who were interviewed seemed to go to great lengths to try to absolve the Jewish religious leadership of responsibility for the crucifixion. The logic went something like this: The Romans wanted to kill Jesus, but neither the Romans nor the Jews wanted to ignite pandemonium in Jerusalem during Passover by arresting Him in public. So the Sanhedrin, the religious governing council, had him brought in quietly as a favor to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Jesus would have been killed anyway, the theory goes, and this way riots were avoided and peace was maintained. Or something like that.

This calls to mind the controversy over “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson’s movie. Some Jews felt that the film put too much guilt on the Jewish leadership. Was the ABC show designed to ameliorate anti-Semitic feeling that the movie might have stirred?

Indeed, the movie vilified the Jewish leaders. And indeed, it embellished on the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Neither the television show nor the movie depicted the events surrounding the crucifixion exactly as they happened.

No matter. To believers, it was not the Romans or the Jews who condemned Jesus to the cross. The suffering of the Messiah was God’s plan for salvation, as it had been foretold many years earlier by the Jewish prophets.

No purpose is served by pointing fingers and placing blame, and that certainly is not in the spirit of Jesus’ instruction to us. As we mourn His torturous death on Good Friday, we can make that suffering meaningful by a renewed dedication to His teachings, and particularly to one that, to Him, transcended all others: “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.”


Published in Editorials on April 9, 2004 1:03 PM