Today is Good Friday (for Protestants and Catholics), the day we remember the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Reading the stories, it’s not hard to get swept up in the drama--kind of like watching a good film--it’s easy to identify with so much of the emotion: the fear and confusion of the disciples, the self-righteous malice of the religious authorities, the scapegoating anger of the crowd, Pontius Pilate’s frustration and attempted detachment, Judas’s guilt and self-loathing.
In the past I’ve always identified most strongly with Pilate--his inner conflict between doing the right thing or the logical thing. He knows that Jesus is innocent, but he lacks the moral courage to set him free--so he hides behind a façade of detached rationalism--“What is truth?” “I wash my hands of this matter.” He pretends that he’s done everything he can--but in fact, he has failed to do the one thing he knew he should have.
I’ve also identified with Peter, the other betrayer, the faithless coward. Peter, so impulsive, so embarrassingly but endearingly weak.
Remembering the story this year, for the first time I feel like the thief being crucified next to Jesus: suffering at his side, but for my own sins, as well as others’; knowing myself a sinner, and begging for mercy. It is strangely my honor to hang, condemned beside him. He shares my shame--and makes it into glory. He takes my guilt, my death, and turns them into triumph. Today I feel like that thief whom he promised would be with him in Paradise … that lucky bastard … it’s me.