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Every other spring I make college students view two films: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar. They tend to dislike the first and enjoy the second. This past Tuesday we discussed the two films, comparing and contrasting, reading from Nietzsche, and referencing Moltmann. It was a wonderfully exhausting discussion that modeled how popular culture becomes what Barth calls “secular parables”.
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land…” Mark 15:33.
What prompted Cooper to detach his ship and slip into the black hole? Was it the mission? Or was it his love for Murph, and the hope that he might save his family? Regardless, he faced the darkness. Unable to see what was on the other side, he let go and slipped into the black nothingness. If you’ve seen the film you have the whole picture, which makes facing the darkness less daunting because we know what’s on the other side of the event horizon. Not knowing, however, evokes different emotions. Is he sacrificing himself for the greater good? Is he driven by love or madness?
Our tendency is to approach Good Friday from the vantage point of Easter Sunday. We know what’s on the other side of crucifixion, so when we hear the gospel account of Christ’s death, when we sing “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” or “What Wondrous Love is This”, we do so with the assurance that in three days Jesus will rise from the dead. What if we couldn’t see the other side? What if we faced Good Friday without the knowledge of Easter Sunday? Do we have the strength and courage to face the darkness of Good Friday?
Doing so means taking the suffering of this world seriously; it means facing the God-forsaken-ness of senseless violence and oppression, the ravaging of disease, and the horror of domestic and sexual abuse. Maybe Easter Sunday causes us to skim the surface of Good Friday, meaning we don’t have to wrestle with the impact of our own sin. Maybe it means we never have to take responsibility for our own hateful and painful actions.
On Good Friday we hear the cry from the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” and we are forced to look upon the tortured, dying, Christ as he takes upon himself the sins of the world. More than that, we are called to step into the darkness. We are called by Jesus to take up our cross, to enter the event horizon. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) We don’t get to skip to Easter, we must go through Good Friday. We must die, we must have our identities, our hope and dreams, our entire lives, deconstructed. We are called to enter into the dark suffering of this world because this is where Jesus goes, and if we want to be his disciples, we must let go and cross over into the darkness as well. This is what it means to follow Jesus.