The Cross and our Work: A Meditation for Good Friday

The Cross and our Work: A Meditation for Good Friday April 18, 2014

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians remember the death of Jesus on the cross and its meaning. Usually, on this day, I find a quiet place to read one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, a place where I can focus, reflect, and pray. But, today I find myself in a very different place.

I’m sitting in Barrington Coffee in South Boston. As I read the familiar story of Jesus’ crucifixion, I’m interrupted by the commotion behind me as the barista calls out people’s drinks: “I am thirsty.” “Skim latté for Andy.” “It is finished.” “Emily, your drink is ready.” The barista is doing her work, satisfying thirst, finishing drinks.

As I gaze across the street, I see people huddled away in their offices, no doubt staring at their screens while chattering away on their smartphones. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. Maybe those soldiers hated Jesus and wanted to kill him. Most likely, though, they were just doing their job. They could make a little extra on crucifixions because they could take possession of the garments of those being crucified. Work with a few perks, I suppose. I’m glad those folks in the offices have better work.

Most of all, I’m distracted by the activity in front of me, as several workmen are moving heavy equipment. Do they know it’s Good Friday? Does the death of Jesus really mean anything to them? Does it matter, not just for their private lives, but also for their work? How does the crucifixion matter to the man driving that bulldozer? What difference does it make for the work of operating heavy equipment?

Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins. Because of his death, we can be forgiven. We can have relationship with God now and forever. We can be part of God’s family. This is good news, indeed.

But the cross of Jesus is about more than personal salvation. The cross did more than give us a guaranteed reservation in Heaven. Indeed, Jesus died, not just to deal with our personal sin, but also with Sin and its implications. Jesus died to undo the mess that sin causes, a mess which, according to Genesis 3, has everything to do with our work.

God created us in his image. Even as God is a worker, so are we. The first commands of Scripture, found in Genesis, make it clear that God wants us to work. We are honored to be co-workers with God, stewards of his creation. But, according to Genesis 3, sin messes up this beautiful picture. Work becomes laden with pain, frustration, and fruitlessness, all because of sin.

So, if the cross of Jesus is God’s answer to the problem of sin, then it has everything to do with our work, including the work of serving people, preparing food and drink, doing business through screens and phones, and operating a bulldozer. I need to spend more time reflecting on all of this. I don’t usually think such thoughts during my Good Friday devotions. Maybe I should come back to Barrington Coffee next year.

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