Summary: Sermon preached at the Good Friday service
Many of us watched in horror this week as Notre Dame cathedral burnt. When the fire was finally brought under control and the first pictures were released you could see the cared remains of the roof up and down the main aisle.
But at the far end. On the high altar stood the golden cross amidst the debris. Why did the cross remain while so much of this international treasure was destroyed?
The simple answer is that the wood in the roof has a much lower kindling point than the gold covering the cross. But there is more to it than that. Why after 2000 years are we still celebrating the death of a man on a cross amidst the debris of human folly?
Why would anyone make a big deal over such a terrible form of capital punishment? Why would be call this Good Friday?
I got a text message this morning from our 8-year-old granddaughter in Fort McMurray. Eliana wanted to know three things:
1. What do they call this Good Friday?
2. What time did Jesus die?
3. Why is Sunday called Easter?
Jesus died at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. That was the easy question. But why is this called Good Friday?
1. It is Good Friday because we are forgiven because of what happened on the Cross. The first thing Jesus said from the cross is Father forgive them. No matter what we have done or how far we have traveled away from God and goodness there is hope because of the cross.
2. It is Good Friday because God has not forsaken us. Sometimes life gets so hard, so mean, so painful, so unfair, that we feel that God has forsaken us. Even Jesus felt that way and cried: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. But the story is not over. This is Friday but Sunday’s coming!
3. It is Good Friday because the way has been open up to Paradise. Jesus, said this as He was dying: Today, you will be with me in Paradise. The dread, the fear, the sting of death has been taken away because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4. It is Good Friday because the destiny that Jesus had in life had been reached. All of us have a destiny in life; a goal that we strive for but most of us will die with unfinished business. But Jesus could say in his last breath: It is finished.
The great task of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth was finished. The unbelievable task of reconciling all things in heaven and on earth to himself as it says in Col. 1:20. It is finished.
It’s over. It’s done. He’s Finished.
The Cross of Jesus is the greatest event in human history – the greatest event in all of the universe.
Upon that one event hangs the fate of the world. Broken lives are healed; destinies are fixed; demons are destroyed. The way is opened up to Paradise.
Small wonder we say with Saint Paul: As for me, I will not boast in anything, except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Small wonder the Cross is such a part of our Christian life. We hang the cross about our necks, and on our altars, and in our homes. We in the Anglican and Catholic traditions make the sign of the cross as a physical reminder of what happened this day. The cross has become a symbol of the Christian faith all over the world. By the second Century, Christians not only drew, painted and engraved the cross as a symbol of their faith, but they also made the sign of the cross on themselves.
Tertullian, the North African lawyer-theologian who lived around 200 AD wrote:
At every forward step,
at every going out,
When we put on our clothes
and when we bathe
When we sit at the table to eat
when we light the lamps.
Yea, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the cross. This was not an act of superstition – this was an act of devout faith. And soon the cross was everywhere: if you were a visitor from another Universe you could not miss it. On buildings, on gravestones, Churches built in the shape of a cross; in paintings, crosses around the neck and from ear lobes; on walls.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.