Some Good Friday Reflections

One thing I try to argue against is the sin debt/penal substitution interpretation of the cross.

When we think of the wooden cross in Mark, we think of the easily enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and indifferent to justice Pilate. When these people saw Jesus on the beams of the cross as a criminal, what they should have been seeing is their own deep rooted flaws for executing him. Matthew and Luke express this sentiment in the following way invoking the image of the wooden beam/plank/log, making us think of the cross:

  • Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
  • 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:37-42)

Perhaps the issue here is not in seeing the criminal Jesus hung on the beams of the cross, but the people seeing the beam in their own eyes. The one who attempts to regulate his brother often displays the greater blindness and hypocrisy.  A proverb of this sort was familiar to the Jews and appears in numerous other cultures too, such as the Latin proverb of later Roman days referenced by Athenagoras of Athens, meretrix pudicam: Generally translated “The harlot rebuketh the chaste.”

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