For People with bishop Rob Wright

Why // Good Friday 2023

For People
Why // Good Friday 2023

About the episode

Jesus was lynched on a tree outside the city walls in front of his closest friends and mother.  But there is no Easter Resurrection without Good Friday.

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about Good Friday and our own Good Fridays. Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.


What I want to do today, since we’re talking about Good Friday, I want to take a moment and ask people to feel this, feel what it feels like for the innocent to die. To feel what it feels like to betray. To feel what it feels like to collude, not necessarily actively. And we’re invited to think maybe a little bit more carefully about the things that are on automatic for us.

Easton: This is for people with Bishop Rob Right.

Melissa: Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m your host Melissa Rau. And this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, weekly devotions and out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s For Faith and a link to subscribe in the episodes description.

Hey, Bishop.

Rob: Hey.

Melissa: Hey, today, we’re going to spend a little bit of time unpacking what Good Friday is? So, how about it? What’s good about Good Friday?

Rob: Oh my god, well, a lot of things. You know, some people worry about the name, why should we call it good? I mean, it is the the remembrance of a man lynched in front of his mother outside the city walls, you know, between two thieves for saying that we should love neighbor and that we should share what we have and that we should commit ourselves to God. I mean, that’s what they killed him for. They killed him for truth.

So, what’s good about Good Friday is that Friday is one step in a process of good making, right? So, the process in good making is to tell the truth, and to be able to square up to it, and have your eyes wide open to it. And you know, the truth is that life is not all rainbows, unicorns, and jellybeans, right? That life has suffering in it. Life has betrayal in it. Life is unfair. People collude against you sometimes even when you do the right things.

And so, what I like about Good Friday, and I think you know why I love Jesus. Jesus has never hoodwinked or bait and switched anybody. Jesus never said, “Hey, come follow me. It will be a party. There will be confetti and paper mache animals.” And then turned around on us and gave us this sort of unvarnished truth. He has always said, “Follow me has a cost.” But what he says, anything you face will never be bigger than my love, my grace, my mercy, and my empowerment for you. I like that about Good Friday.

Good Friday also gives us a friend in adversity. One of the things that happens to many of us in difficult times, and in our good Fridays, and Saturdays, and Sundays, and Mondays, is that we feel tragically and terribly alone. We feel like we’re the ones who are suffering. And that suffering is sort of made worse by feelings of loneliness. And in Jesus, we have a friend, who suffers. You know, Bob Marley, great rasta, poet, and sama said, “Every man feels that his burden is the heaviest.” And so, one of the good things about Good Friday is that I have a friend whose name is Jesus of Nazareth, who had a much more difficult burden than I’ll ever bear. And so, when I’m weak, or feeble, or teetering, you know, I can lean on his strength, you know, at his hour of testing.

And finally, I would say Good Friday is good, because when we suffer, and when we find other brothers and sisters who knows suffering, we find family. Jesus from the cross looked down and partnered people. He said, “This is your mother.” He gave his friends a new mother. And he said to his friends, “This is your brother.” And so, you know, the Bible says brothers and sisters are born for adversity. So, in the Good Fridays of our life, we are not alone. I should say loneliness is a choice that we don’t have to make. The invitation in Jesus’s Good Friday is that we don’t have to suffer alone. Jesus is our friend and suffering. And we are bonded together and bound together in suffering.

The examples are too many. Whether we are talking about AA, or whether we’re talking about people who are, you know, friends of mine who became real friends because of the work that we did and the suffering we did in dive school in the Navy a thousand years ago. Being stripped naked and being subjected to cold and exposure. All those things together has forged a bond that is not easily broken. In fact, I was talking to a guy that I went to flight school and dive school with the other day, 30 or so years ago, and the bond is still there.

So, in Good Friday, there are many benefits. But in Good Friday, we get to know something also about God.

Melissa: So, you said earlier, that the process of good making is to tell the truth.

Rob: Yeah.

Melissa: And actually, I forgot to say that this devotion this week was based off of one of the 40 meditations for starting over a book that you named, Beginning Again with God, and published in 2013. So, the excerpt is called, Why? And you talk about the process of good making and part of that is telling the truth. And in your reflection, you mentioned how you were a school chaplain with children, explaining the story of Good Friday. And the kids asked, “Why would people kill someone who came in peace?” And so, then you said, “Why do we respond to truth by fight, freeze, or fight?” Have you ever gotten any closer to answering that question?

Rob: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer to the question is. I mean, I’ll tell you, I’m deeply formed by having been a school chaplain, you know, a thousand years ago, right? And that’s where I started off in my ordained ministry at the Cathedral School in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A school attached to the Cathedral, St. John Divine.

And there, you know, I’ve always loved the Bible, and they’ve already graduated seminary and all that sort of stuff. You get to talk to young people. It was a K through eight school. You get to talk to kids and see how they process the story. So, what was amazing to me was to hear is to watch their responses, as I told them about, you know, Martin Luther King’s assassination, we just celebrated his martyrdom on a balcony in Memphis and Good Friday. And they had the same sort of, you know, curious, look at me, like I was making no sense. They said, you know, “Well, you said to Dr. King came to preach nonviolence.” I said, “Yes.” You said, “He came to preach the Gospel of love.” I said, “Yes.” They said, “Well, why would we kill him?”

If you ever want to get a sense of how sick we really are, and how we sort of normalized sickness, just look at kindergarteners when you tell them some of the truths that we live out. And then, you will see that as life goes along, we break something in children. We call it reality. But really, we live in an upside down world. We promote liars. And we kill truth tellers. But, you know, they had to kill Jesus because the truth that he was and that he told, you know, put into jeopardy the house of lies that we live in. You know, the temple was completely sort of occupied by the government, by the state, and they were doing their very best of being oppressed and keep the tradition, the government was brutal in its oppression of anything that looked like revolt or upstart religion. And so, there was a very fragile, fragile piece.

And then, in comes this nobody from Nazareth, truth teller. And so, the truth is just too hard to bear for some of us, and that’s why we avoid it, we bury it, we seal it. And in Jesus’s case, we murder it. You know, what we forget is that that’s only a short-term strategy. And Jesus proves that. And so many other examples prove that as we can avoid truth. We can try to mitigate it for a season. But ultimately, it will have its way. We had no idea that Jesus would get up from the grave and tell us the ultimate truth. And that is, you can put a stone over me, you can betray me, crucify me, whip me, sort of run roughshod over me with a kangaroo court and legal proceedings, poke a hole in my side, and you still cannot outdo and undo the truth of God. And that is, the pulse and cadence of God is new life.

As Howard Thurman says, you know, “God is forever on the side of the future.” And so, God proves that in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus just doesn’t decide to get up from the grave. We need to say, he is resurrected by God. And in other words, when the matter had a question mark over it, God came down on the side of new life. God resurrected Jesus. And has given us a sense of what God is for. And God is ultimately for truth, God is for equity, God is for liberty. And God is for building our set of values around all of that. God is for the courageous, who are willing to do their part of telling the truth, to the uplift of everybody.

Melissa: Wow, I have so many questions and I can’t wait to get to them when we come back after the short break.

Easton: Hi, listeners, thank you for listening to For People, a space of digital evangelism. You can keep up with us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. And now back to For People.

Melissa: And we’re back. Goodness Bishop, before we went to break, I admitted that I have so many questions. And it struck me as I was listening to you, I thought of Jesus. Jesus died for Jesus’s enemies, right?

Rob: Well, I mean–

Melissa: Like he died for people who were shouting Hosanna on Palm Sunday and that by noon that Friday, they were yelling crucify him, you know. It’s just mind boggling to me.

Rob: And not only that, but, you know, when they were given a choice, the crowd was given the choice and said, we prefer, you know, Barabbas. Give us the guy who’s the notorious criminal, right? Over this, you know, sort of well intentioned, sort of nobody. Which says a lot about us. And I’m glad in the Church, when we tell this story, we sort of read it in parts in most places. And then, those who are assembled get to be the crowd, get to be the fickle crowd. Hosanna, oh, you know, All Praise be to God, on his little donkey going through the gates. And in short order, “No, man, kill him.” And in the worst part of the whole thing, you know, kill him so we can get back to worship in the temple.

Melissa: Yeah. But they did that, I think out of fear. Because that’s what a lot of people in power will often use. They’ll manipulate people through the sense of fear. And this is why I really, I’m kind of digging the process of good making is to tell the truth. And we need to tell the truth in order to get past fear and beyond, you know, into the love realm.

So, I’m reminded by Mandela’s effort in South Africa, and I just learned the best this. I think it was Mandela that said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear.” That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon. And someone just shared with me that the people who did all of the murdering, the killing, you know, that just God awful stuff, that if they came in and confessed, they just exonerated them and let them walk. And just the power of that forgiveness and what that can do for love, I don’t know, all of this is just jumbling around right now.

Rob: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, you have to take it in turn, right? It’s a step. It’s a step. We actually don’t get to the formalization of forgiveness. I mean, sure, Jesus says, “Forgive them Father for they do not know what they do,” right? And then he invites the one thief, who makes the request invites them into paradise with him. In other words, you who was rightfully crucified, so to speak, are now welcome with me, the one who was crucified, you know, unjustly, right?

What I like about Good Friday is it forces you to take it step by step, right? So, I don’t want to get to forgiveness just yet, right? I don’t want to get to Jesus, formalizing this whole notion of how to build a community going forward, which is on forgiveness. I mean, you know, Peter denies him three times and Jesus is taken into custody, etc. But then, after the resurrection, Jesus finds him slip past the lock door and restores the community through you know, a muscular forgiveness effort. But we’re not there yet. Most of us have watched the movie, In Order, or we have read the book.

What I want to do today, since we’re talking about Good Friday, I want to take a moment and ask people to feel this, feel what it feels like for the innocent to die. To feel what it feels like to betray. To feel what it feels like to collude, not necessarily actively, but by inattention. Pontius Pilot, you know, I don’t know how you read Pontius Pilot. You know, I change over the years, but I think Pontius Pilot was like lots of us. He was just an over busy administrator. So, a nobody from Nazareth didn’t even make the list to do. It’s like, what? Sure, get it. Crucify him, who cares. And so, I don’t think this is some big drama, you know, big test of evil. If anything it’s the test of our indifference gets interrogated. And we’re invited to think maybe a little bit more carefully about the things that are on automatic for us. Pontius Pilot was like, look, I’m trying to get promoted here. The Roman government has a system. If I do well here, the sky is the limit. I can provide for my family. I will secure a good life, a nice house. I mean, he’s, like so many of us. Does that take away from what he has done? Of course not. But I think that if we pay attention to these characters in the story, we will see ourselves.

You know, I’m reminded also that the Jesus, you know, Judas, goes in betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas was the treasurer. I’m also reminded. It was Judas who took real exception to the woman who wanted to wipe Jesus’s feet, wash his feet, you know, with perfume, which was some scholars say, was worth 300 pieces of silver.

I’ve been in the church a long time, and I know that sometimes, you know, church can get really argumentative about how do we spend money. And I’ve seen people leave churches, because they didn’t like the way that money was being spent. They didn’t like the priorities that had been established, and were being funded. And so, I’m not minimalizing Judas, but I can understand him. How he can go off and be upset, and to say, “Hey, look, you know, this guy is wrongheaded in the way he’s justifying expenses, and who is this woman anyway, and is a sexual misbehavior? She’s wiping his feet with her hair.” I mean, I can just reason through the lens of the modern church, all these sorts of things.

But what is powerful to me is, is that there is something about the human condition, where we have to betray something and break something and destroy something before we really understand and appreciate its real value. And that’s what I think about, you know, Jesus and Good Friday. It’s the centurion, the guy charged actually to oversee the lynching that says, “Surely this man was the Son of God. But it’s not until his body is broken, and lifeless, and the breath has gone out of it before he realizes what has happened.” And so, I want to just think about the times where we broken things, destroyed things, undervalued things, right? And realize that, you know, on the best side of things, it took that, for us to begin to appreciate life, or our health, or our loved ones, or what is really important in life. That I think helps to bring resurrection closer. But it’s only after sadly, so often, only after we’ve done our worst.

Melissa: Bishop, thank you for that reminder. Good Friday, some tough stuff. And I think it’s natural to just want to get beyond it, kind of like what you said. And so, sitting with our crap, is often essential in order to get to the good stuff.

Well, thank you. And listeners, we are grateful for you for listening to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review, and we’ll be back with you next week.