Beautiful Irony

I’d like to share a song with you, that is beautifully sharp and ironic. I came across it a few years back, when famous Bible Scholar N.T. Wright sang it on a podcast. The first time I heard it, I had to pause it, rewind it and check if I heard it correctly. It’s not without its controversy, as you will likely hear. But in its sharp ironic words I find some beautiful truths that I reflect on below. It’s called Friday Morning and was written by Sydney Carter. Take a listen:

If you couldn’t hear or if N.T. Wright sang unclear, you can read the lyrics here below.

Friday Morning – Sydney Carter

It was on a Friday morning that they took me from the cell
and I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well
You can blame it on to Pilate
You can blame it on the Jews
You can blame it on the Devil
But it’s God that I accuse

It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me’
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree

You can blame it on to Adam
You can blame it on to Eve
You can blame it on the apple,
but that I can’t believe
It was God that made the Devil
And the woman and the man
And there wouldn’t be an apple
If it wasn’t in the plan

It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me’
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree

Now Barabbas was a sinner
And they let Barabbas go
But you are being crucified
For nothing here below
And God is up in Heaven
and He doesn’t do a thing
With a million angels watching
and they never move a wing’

It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me’
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree

To hell with Jehovah,’
To the carpenter I said
I wish that a carpenter had made the world instead’
Goodbye and good luck to you
our ways they will divide
Remember me in heaven;
The man you hung beside’

It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me’
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree

These lyrics are controversial, and I can see why. A quick, plain reading of the text might bring you to some strong conclusions. But irony and sarcasm weave their way subtly through these words; in ways I could never do justice. Yet I’d like to highlight some of them anyway.

One line, more than the rest, has stuck with me throughout the years. ‘I wish that a carpenter had made the world instead’. I can empathize with this criminal, especially after the previous verse. In what world would it make sense that a known killer would be let go, while an innocent man is condemned to death by his own people. I can imagine the criminal thinking, a carpenter would not make a world like that. A carpenter would make a simpler world, one where all the pieces fit together neatly, a world that makes sense. Yet every time I read or hear that line, I want to shout for joy; “But a Carpenter Did make the world instead!” and I become so hopeful, because his wish has been fulfilled. But that only lasts for a few seconds when my heart falls as I realize this man did not have the eyes to see.

How many others were so busy accusing a god they created in their own image, that they could not see the God who was right in front of them? How many are looking for one still? Blind to the beauty and the wonder that lives in the hearts of those around us.

Who dares say something like “It’s God they ought to crucify”, these days? And yet, who can honestly say they have never questioned how a good God can let so much bad stuff happen? If I were in this criminal’s shoes, I’m not sure if I would disagree with him. I’m not sure I’d have the eyes to see who this Carpenter really was. So, if he was just a carpenter after all, who spoke of peace and was maligned by his peers… Then how dare God let this carpenter die and a killer live? I’d be angry at God too, if I were to die alongside this carpenter. I’d know that I had deserved my sentence. But equally I’d know that this carpenter did not. This carpenter had never done a thing to deserve this punishment, this torture, this execution. How agonizing, to die, knowing that that much injustice was afoot and you had no ability to stop it. But with his innocense the carpenter will surely go to heaven. Where you would go, you do not know… so all you can do is ask; ‘Remember me’, your last good deed.

Stepping back, I wonder: Would it have helped if the criminal had gotten his eyes to see that Friday morning. If he had glimpsed the truth of who the Carpenter was. Would he have understood why the Carpenter chose silence, chose submission, chose death, on that fateful Friday morning? Would I have? Honestly, I think not. The irony is not lost on me that those are truths too wonderful to comprehend.

So I’m glad that a Carpenter has made the world instead.

Dear Lord,
as we come closer to that fateful Friday morning,

Give us eyes to see
to see more of You,
to see Your beauty,
in the eyes of our friends
to see Your love,
in the hearts of our enemies
Give us eyes to see You
in every single cell and particle
of this world that You have made.
Give us eyes to see You.



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