Summary: A REFLECTION FOR GOOD FRIDAY: We turn our minds to the events of that dark Friday, and search for the light of meaning in the Resurrection
Sermon Series: Lent 2009
A REFLECTION FOR GOOD FRIDAY: We turn our minds to the events of that dark Friday, and search for the light of meaning in the Resurrection
Journeying with Jesus through Lent #8: ‘What’s so ‘GOOD’ about Good Friday?’
What is so ‘good’ about Good Friday? A question we may well be asked by those around us – a question that may emerge from the depths of our own hearts. What is so ‘good’ about Good Friday?
That day, 2000+ years ago, when Jesus had been betrayed and arrested and, early in the morning, was taken to face the accusations of the High Priest, then the probing questions of Pilate. That early morning when Pilate washed his hands of all responsibility for Jesus’ condemnation by those who sought to execute him. The morning when the people, so overcome with fear and hatred, elected to release the callous bandit Barabbas (who had killed many people) instead of Jesus (who had sought only to give people life in all its fullness).
Then there was the flogging, the humiliation, the ridicule by the soldiers, who dressed Jesus up as a caricature of an earthly ‘king of the Jews’. In a purple robe and crown of thorns, Jesus suffered the cruel mockery of the world – the man who was the Son of God. All this amid the howling and blood-lust of the baying crowds who clamoured for his crucifixion.
The people who had welcomed Jesus only a few days before, waving palm-branches and carpeting the road to Jerusalem with their cloaks and hailing him as Messiah, now lined the way leading to the Place of the Skull, jeering at and taunting him. Laughing at and scorning the man who wept over Jerusalem; the man who earnestly desired to protect its people like a mother hen gathers her brood under her wing; the man who now bore the weight of the sin of humanity on his shoulder in the cross: Jesus, alone and vulnerable, struggling in such great pain.
On that lonely, desolate hill, the crucified Jesus between two others, on the cross he (and Simon of Cyrene) had carried on the way: they had now placed an inscription on the cross (at Pilate’s insistence) saying “Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews.” This was written in Aramaic (Hebrew), Greek and Latin, so that everyone would know. At the foot of the cross, four soldiers distributed Jesus’ clothing among them and cast lots for his tunic – they didn’t want to tear this as it had some small value. They didn’t have any qualms about rendering in two the hearts of his mother and her two companions, nor that of the disciple Jesus loved. The soldiers were oblivious to the reality that they were tearing asunder the heart of God.
There on that cross, Jesus hung naked and completely vulnerable, yet even in the midst of his own torment, was acutely aware of the suffering and pain experienced by his mother and her companions: the pain of separation, hopelessness and fear. Jesus knew first-hand what it was to be betrayed, disowned, denied by those among whom were the closest of friends. Where were Peter and his other followers? Already the cockerel had cried out into the black dawn sky.
Having experienced the pain of separation himself, Jesus knows and shares in the loneliness of his mother and the disciple he loves more than any other. He brings them together as mother and son, to comfort and console one another in the shared experience of bereavement that is to follow.
Jesus calls for a drink to quench his burning thirst. He is offered a sponge soaked in sour wine: a wine that spoke in its bitterness of the broken relationship with God, and this in stark contrast to the sweet cup he offered and shared with his friends the night before. The Cup that stood for sacrifice – but the possibility of new relationship with God.
Then it was finished. It was accomplished. Jesus gave-up his spirit and died. It was over – or so it seemed. The Sabbath was nigh, and the darkness of night approached. Permission was given to remove the bodies of the Jewish dead, and Jesus was taken-down and placed in a new tomb in a nearby quarry. A great stone was rolled across the entrance of the tomb – a seemingly permanent obstacle to keep the life and light outside from seeping into the darkness and death inside. … (Pause).
***(A passiontide hymn may be sung here, or a time or silent reflection)***
So, what is so ‘good’ about Good Friday? For Jesus’ mother, for the other women who had witnessed his death along with the Beloved Disciple, there was nothing ‘good’ about Good Friday. For the other disciples, in their fear, confusion and guilt, there was nothing ‘good’ about Good Friday. Maybe for the crowds, for the guardians of the Jewish faith, for the upholders of Roman law and order, that Friday was ‘good’. They had rid themselves of a dangerous revolutionary and radical prophet, who would have whipped the people up into political, social and religious turmoil. For them too, it was finished – it had been accomplished.