Father Neuhaus has titled his book "Death on a Friday Afternoon" because that is when Jesus died. But his meditations on the seven last "words" of Jesus (actually, the seven last utterances) provide an understanding and explanation that will lead thoughtful readers into the meaning of the resurrection as well. Neuhaus, however, does not want readers to get to the resurrection without pondering carefully what is meant by the seven words on the cross, a compilation from the Gospel accounts.
I found Neuhaus'es book refreshing, in that it helped me to contemplate in a careful manner the circumstances in which Jesus uttered his words and the reason that he gave them.
Along the way Neuhaus introduces aspects of Catholic theology that are a part of his faith and world-view, but a Protestant reading the book (like myself) may find somewhat beside the point. Far more illuminating are the asides to social issues that are relevant to what Jesus said and taught.
In summary, a profoundly insightful book, caputuring the mystery of God in human form, dying painfully but purposefully on the cross for the sins of humankind.
This is a wonderful book, written with patience, love, and care--written, at times, prayerfully and poetically. In contemplating our Christian faith, Neuhaus urges us not to skip Good Friday and go right to Easter and the joy of the Resurrection (though it IS joyful). Rather, we must reflect on the Crucifixion, on His death, without which there could have been no Resurrection and without which there would be no redemption. Some outsiders and even many Christians find the Crucifixion morbid and shy away from pondering it, but it is meant to shock and disturb. (This was not lost on Dostoevsky, who has some excellent passages and descriptions of the crucified Christ in The Idiot.) It was a death and murder, one in which we all are complicit. We must understand this before we can hope to understand the meaning of His death.
Neuhaus uses the seven last "words" (utterances, really) of Christ to explore the nature of His life and death, as well as the nature of our own lives and deaths. Tangentially, he comments on our culture and society, on permissivity and the like--ideas that will be familiar to readers of First Things. But this is primarily a book on religion, not politics. Nor is it an exposition of theology. Neuhaus avoids the often complicated and difficult-to-understand theological matters (and debates) that surround Christ's life, death, and resurrection, as well as the implications for us. Certainly, Neuhaus adheres to his--which is to say, the Catholic Church's--interpretation, but here he seeks to get to the foundations of Christianity. The result is something all Christians--and, indeed, anyone desiring to understand the faith--can enjoy and appreciate.