Question: Why did Jesus die and what did Jesus’ death accomplish?
Answer: Jesus died for our sins and his death paid the penalty for our sins.
The answer comes before the question is even finished. In fact certain readings of Isaiah would have the answer come before the question. Is there a particularly Good Friday answer to this question. Shouldn’t the answer be intimately bound with Good Friday?
If I stay with the text (John was our reading this year) the sequence goes as follows. Why did Jesus die? Because he was killed. What did Jesus’ death accomplish? Nothing. So we sit with futility of death. The God of king and priest is dead because the one and only king and priest is crucified. By definition then Good Friday sits with atheism and anarchism. Good Friday sits with the knowledge that the nature of religion and empire is death.
But if you would like something other than death to sit with and there must be something more than death because the disciples continued to live in the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. If you would like some words to come alongside the words of the dead and forsaken God then listen to Jesus again from the cross. Listen to him before his final words. He turns to his mother, the woman who gave him birth. Jesus looks at her and then motions to his disciple standing by her and says, “Here is your son.” And then he looks at his disciple and motions to his mother saying, “Here is your mother.” And with these words a community is called. A community based not on lineage, culture, tradition, status or interests. This community is called by all who will gather and acknowledge that the gods of this world are dead and the gods of some heaven reserved for the privileged are dead. So what will live on? Where will life be found? Today all we are offered are the words to turn and see our mother, our father, our sons and our daughters among those gathered at the site of death; the site too often created by religion and empire that work to exclude the undesirable. Jesus has called a people to gather beyond the illusion of religion and beyond the power of empire; to gather in death where we must ask ourselves if love too has died. And if love has not died . . . then we must love. But few of us find that place on our own so must begin by seeking the lost who have been thrust there. Why did Jesus die? Maybe first we need to ask another question. Where did Jesus die?