Good Friday: The Active Passion of Christ

On Good Friday, more than any other day, we are confronted with the bloody reality of the passion of our savior. As my pastor pointed out this Sunday, we’re not talking about “passion” in the typical modern sense of “driving motive” or “overwhelming emotion”, but rather his trial, torture, and death on the cross. Christ’s passion is his passio, those events of which he is the patient, the one being acted on.

Sitting in service on Sunday, I reflected on how easily it is to see Jesus in his passion as pure victim. Many of us are tempted by centuries of paintings and passion plays to see a helpless Jesus hanging on the cross, bearing the sins of the world at the hands of sinful men. Or again,  at a theological level, some of us simply see him as a passive object of the Father’s overwhelming decree and action. While I don’t want to deny either human responsibility, or Jesus’ submission to the Father, I was once again struck by the fact that Jesus’ passion was an actively chosen one.

When confronted with Pilate’s claim to ultimate human authority, the very authority and power that would be used to subject him to the cross, Jesus responds with an assertion of divine sovereignty:

christ-carrying-the-crossSo Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11a)

According to Jesus, then, in submitting to the authority of Pilate and the hands of men, he is not ultimately at their disposal or mercy, but that of the One who reigns from a much higher throne.

Pushing even further back, Jesus goes on to clarify that this is not a will or authority imposed by his Father coercively, but one that the Divine Son himself actively chooses to obey:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

While the task of the cross was one given him by the Father, it nonetheless taken on by the Son in the power of the Spirit as an outflow of the perfect trinitarian unity of will to save.

Jesus’ passion, then, was an active one. Every blow received from the hands of mocking guards, he received by his own choice. Every false trial he was put through, he stood in the docket freely. Each stumbling step he took towards Golgotha, he walked willingly. Any hammer blow driving the nails deeper into the wood through his hands, was one he sovereignly allowed to pierce his flesh. And that final breath he breathed out from the Cross? He expired it at the time of his own determination.

In other words, as one of my favorite bands puts it:

…Jesus never fell in love,
With open eyes He walked directly to the cross,
He knew exactly what I cost,
and He still went.

-My Epic, “Childbodybride”

Today, then, let us praise and love the Son as the Father does, for truly, he “lays his life down of his own accord” for us and our salvation.

Soli Deo Gloria

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