Good Friday Meditation
April 14, 2017

Good Friday Meditation

Passage: John 18:1-19:42

God is God.

In creating this world, God could have made it in a thousand different ways. It could have been a world without change, without trouble – a world that was always static in its harmony and bliss. But that is not the world God made. Ours is a world of constant change, a place where living things must always die.

A housefly will live for about a month. A bald eagle for 20 years or so. We humans consider 85 a reasonably long life – though of course that seems quite unreasonable at 84. Giant tortoises can live to 200, and there’s a clam that tops out at 400. A coriander plant will sprout in late winter and be dead by July, while a bristlecone pine in California is still alive at nearly 5000 years old. But its days are numbered, too. Everything on this earth will die. And the earth itself will die. And so will our sun, which – say the scientists – is about half way through its life.

Such is the world God made.

And into this world came God. And on this day we remember when God in Christ was killed.

‘Tis a deep mystery, this day: Why did Jesus die? What did he mean at his Last Supper when he said of the cup, “This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”? What does it mean when we say in the Creed that Jesus descended to the dead – or in the older language, “He descended to hell”?

Mysteries indeed.

But of this I am certain, God in Christ died with us. And the death he chose was the worst of deaths: crucifixion on a cross. He was abandoned and betrayed by his friends. He was publicly humiliated. The physical suffering was hideous beyond description. And this is to say nothing of the ontological suffering of his final cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What does it mean for God to forsake God, for the godhead itself to be ruptured? I hardly dare consider an answer.

Any answers we devise, true though they may be, shall be but the first tentative whispers of truth whose sound is soon silenced by the cavernous abyss of that cross where Jesus died.

There will come a day when the whole truth of this cross shall be known. There will come a day when every eye shall be opened and every tongue proclaim the mystery already celebrated in the heavenly courts, when our heart’s true and earnest cry will also be, “Holy, holy, holy Lord.” There will come a day when the abyss of the cross shall be brimming full with wisdom and insight and life.

But whatever that final truth shall be, it is sufficient today to come before the hard wood of the cross and weep with the Suffering Servant. Come with the mindfulness that in Christ’s dying, is your dying. In Christ’s dying is all dying. Throughout the ages every death, in body and soul is gathered into the deep chasm where Jesus’ body was laid. For it is the nature of God to be One, even one in our death.

Soon we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – when our oneness with Christ will also mean our resurrection with Christ. Soon. But not tonight. Tonight we are left with the cross – that hideous spectacle, that scandal of God’s love.

Later in the service you’ll have the opportunity to light a candle and place it beneath the cross. Let that candle be for you whatever manner of death you’ve suffered in this world: the death of a loved one, the death of a marriage, the death of a dream, the death of innocent victims of terrorism and hatred, even your own death which awaits. Light more than one candle if need be. Then let these candles be gathered beneath the cross of Jesus, with the fearful gratitude that all have been gathered into the Son of God who died there for us.

And know that – somehow, in the mystery of the cross – Christ has trampled down death by death and giving life to those in the tomb.

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