He’s green, he’s ten feet tall, and he’s bulging with fourteen hundred pounds of muscle. He’s the Incredible Hulk, hands down one of the coolest comic book heroes ever created. You don’t want to make him mad, because as he often warns, “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets!” In the final battle scene of the recent movie, for example, the Hulk actually picks up a police squad car, rips it in half, and promptly starts to use each end as boxing gloves against his giant opponent!
So you can imagine my delight when one of my friends surprised me with a perfect gift: a huge, stand-up cardboard cut-out of the Hulk! I’ve already put it to good use, using it several times as a prank to scare friends when they’ve come to visit… hiding it perfectly in their guest room, so that they find someone waiting for them when they head to their room for the night and flip on the light!
Not to let a good thing go to waste, I also hauled the Hulk-meister over to our Catholic school one week as I was teaching the middle school classes about Good Friday. I had punched little holes on either side of his hands and used some heavy-duty dental floss to tie his hands together, with a yard of floss like a leash connecting to the “handcuffs.” I told the students, “Imagine that this is the Hulk for real, alive and not terribly pleased, and that I am a policeman trying to arrest him and take him to jail. All that he’s got restraining him are these pathetic floss handcuffs. What do you think the outcome will be?”
Thanks to their excellent Catholic education, the kids all agreed that the Hulk’s not going anywhere the Hulk doesn’t want to go. He could snap through thick steel handcuffs like butter, so clearly the floss isn’t going to hold him! And even if the handcuffs could actually hold him, there is no way for the cop to drag him anywhere. The Hulk would throw the cop around like a rag doll if he wanted, and bound away off into the distance! So clearly, the only way the cop could imprison him is if the Hulk actually chose to follow the policeman calmly and to squeeze himself meekly into a jail cell.
In this sense, when we think about Good Friday and the events of the Lord’s suffering, Jesus is like the Incredible Hulk. Many people, I think, have the notion that Jesus was a great guy that got misunderstood by his contemporaries, a man killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time… as if Jesus were caught up in something beyond his control. But this is incorrect. Besides being human, Jesus was also fully divine, and therefore infinitely more powerful than the Hulk! He came to Jerusalem knowing ahead of time that he was going to be killed, and freely chose to allow this to happen.
When the soldiers came to the garden to arrest him after the Last Supper, Jesus could have knocked them out into the Mediterranean with a wave of his hand! When they bound and chained him, he could have broken the bonds like the Hulk through dental floss! When he was on trial, he could have pulled some mind tricks like Obi-Wan Kenobi: “You will now declare me innocent and allow me to leave!” Unless Jesus freely chose it, the authorities could not have scourged him, crowned him with thorns, mocked and ridiculed him, and stretched him out on the Cross, any more than they could have done that to the Hulk!
Jesus was not forced to die; he freely chose to lay down his life on Good Friday. He chose to sacrifice himself for you, so that you may be freed from slavery to sin, so that you may have eternal life. He did this because he loves you.Jesus, Sacrifice, Suffering