The stories I love the most are often strange tales. I blame this on my boyhood interest of Edgar Allen Poe, which grew into a passionate love for Southern gothic literature later in life. These stories are complex, so full of horror and mystic beauty that I wait with bated breath as I turn each page. What will happen next?
The Apostle Peter tells us that the prophets felt this way, when in their time they looked forward to the time of Jesus. Years ago they “searched and inquired carefully” into the turnings of the redemptive plotline, peering forward through the shadows to glimpse a silhouette of “the suffering and subsequent glories of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But it’s not just the prophets who find this horrifically beautiful story compelling. Peter tells us the angels themselves “long to look” into these mysteries. They too cannot pull their attention away from the narrative—spellbound by the violent, bloody mess of Friday and the rolled away stone of Sunday.
For those of you that can follow the storyline, this makes sense to you. You understand why the prophets and the angels are mesmerized. When one sees and begins to understand Jesus on the cross, the only appropriate response is to stop and stare. Never has violence been so beautiful—a perfectly grotesque act with the power to make the grotesque perfect.
With the Spirit’s help, if you stare long enough, you can see yourself on the cross with Jesus. His tears for your sorrow, His cries for your pain, His judgment for your sin. In a sense, the cross is all about you, while in another sense it’s not about you at all. The cross is Jesus for you. Jesus came to live your God-forsaken-life, to cry your God-forsaken-cry, and on the cross, to experience your God-forsaken-hell.
This is the message of Good Friday, the grotesque perfection of the cross.