Good Friday and “The Jews”

Good Friday is a High Holy Day in the Christian tradition, and I would argue is half of a singular event: Cross/Resurrection.

The tale is tragic, the music somber, the services haunting.

These three days ground my understanding of who God is and what God is up to.  They are where I begin and end my thinking about God, and they thread themselves throughout everything in-between.

To Christians, it reminds us that God suffers, that God shares our pain, that God took death within God’s being.  There is nothing that has not touched God.

To Jews, however, it is a tale told with accusatory blame.

Christians say that we each killed Jesus.  The Good Friday standard hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus” says it well:

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?

Alas, my treason, Jesus hath undone thee!

‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;

I crucified thee.

The texts say that the Jews killed Jesus.

Tradition does too, no matter what we say in our creeds about Jesus dying under Pontius Pilate, a Roman.

That’s right.

The Romans killed Jesus.  Crucifixion was a Roman means of torturous death.  Crucifixion itself was not a Jewish matter at all.

This is not to say that there was no measure of Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death.

Most scholars acknowledge that some Jews played some role in the the death of Jesus.

But the Jews who cried for his demise were those who were most threatened by Jesus’ presence: those in power.

Neither the average Jews-on-the-street nor the Pharisees had anything to do with the death of Jesus.

There were, however, those Jewish leaders in power, not unlike some Christian leaders in power, who were threatened by Jesus’ message and threatened by those who were identifying him with kingship, with Messiahship.

People in power don’t like Jesus.

Jesus’ death was mostly political.

It was partly religious, but even here, it was related to religious power, and a religious power that was directly tied to Roman power.

But “The Jews” did not kill Jesus.

The Christian tradition, on the other hand, has killed Jews by saying so.

http://www.americancatholic.org/newsletters/sfs/an0399.asp

3 Responses to “Good Friday and “The Jews””


  1. Diane Roth says:

    thanks for saying this.

  2. Troy says:

    Amen!

    After the Holocaust, Vatican 2, the 1968 Generation, etc. does any practicing Christian still hold to the image of the Jew as Christ killer? I am sure there are some arch-conservative types in various Christian traditions who do but it seems rare. There is anti-Semitism in spades today, but I’ve never known a person to express anti-Semitism religiously vis-a-vis the killing of Jesus.

    • OMG says:

      I’m afraid it is rampant. One could argue it’s the way to legitimatize anti-Semitism as a form of defending our God from the deniers. Our textual tradition doesn’t help abate the Jew-hate, and so it’s urgent that our lived tradition does.

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