Good Friday, 2015
April 3
Isaiah 52:13—53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 10:16-25; Saint John 18:1–19:42

Today is Christ exalted. Today is Christ lifted high upon the Cross, as he promised, “to draw the whole world to himself.”[1] You and I are part of that world, drawn to Christ, pulled out of ourselves and out of our normal routine to be with him. We are here today exactly for this purpose and none other. As we are drawn to him, we face terrible things. But we have misunderstood if we think today concerns only terrible things. For in the humiliation and in the horror of an innocent man punished; for in the apparent impossibility of God dwelling among us, and in the unthinkable eventuality of God being put to death by human beings; in the midst of these incomprehensible things, Christ reigns. Victory flows forth, like water from a stony rock in the wilderness so many centuries ago. Victory rains, like showers, upon a parched field. We have only to see it for what it is. We have only to accept Christ’s victory as ours, as God’s gift to us, as God’s greatest gift to us. We can see it, if we will, and we can receive the gift if we will.

Christ on the Cross is the supreme moment of God’s gift of his Son to us. It’s the moment when that gift really and completely is in our hands. It’s the moment when eternal life flows from his side. This is the moment of Christ’s exaltation. But it also is the moment when, in his exaltation, we are drawn to him, up to him, and we begin to be refreshed and renewed by the eternal life flowing from his side and showering all who put themselves within his reach. Today is Good Friday.

In the last evening that Jesus ministers to his disciples, as soon as Judas Iscariot runs out to do his deed of betrayal, Jesus exclaims: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.”[2] Glorify means to reveal the essence of. The Crucifixion reveals the essence of the Son of Man. The Crucifixion reveals the essence of the Father. That essence is holy love. In that last evening with the disciples, Jesus speaks of his going and returning to the Father. Jesus prays that the unity between himself and his followers, the unity between them and the Father, the unity between each of them, shall be like the unity between the Father and the Son—a unity eternally changeless and sure. This unity, based on the relationship of the Father and the Son is holy love. And the promise that this holy love will extend from the Father and the Son to us, to this parish, to this congregation gathered at the Cross today, this promise is more than hope. This hope is real. It’s as real as nail and wood, as real as spitting and hitting, as real as piercing thorns plaited into an ironic crown and a mocking purple robe draped over innocent shoulders. The glorification of Christ is this hope of holy love, the hope of unity like that belonging to the Father and the Son, realized in events, realized in the solid hardness of wood and nails. This holy love, this unity, and this hope become true and visible for all to see in the events which themselves enact this holy love, this unity, and this hope.

A message, a love, a unity, a hope on the level of God incarnated in one man will draw the world to his side despite the humiliation. In fact, that’s a major part of today’s message–that victory is greater than the humiliation. A modern person, a person without religion, sees Christ on the Cross and wonders what we can do to prevent so horrible a thing from ever happening again. But we, religious people, people who know our need of God, who are here today precisely because we know we cannot draw a breath without God, see in Christ on the Cross far past his humiliation and suffering. We see into the sublime victory, and we know that victory he gives to us. He gives the victory to us because we cannot win it for ourselves. He gives the victory to us because that is his nature, that is God’s nature. And we are here because the victory is greater than the humiliation. We are here because we know we need what he has to offer. We know we need to be saved, and his offering of himself saves us, not in our deserving but in our very undeserving.

Seeing far past the suffering and the humiliation, we see the glory of the only-begotten Son of God, who before his betrayal, said to his disciples: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. but take courage; I have conquered the world!”[3]

To you who are drawn here today, and to me, I say: Take courage. Let not your own fear and horror of these events overcome you. The worst is far, far passed. It’s far behind. In the Cross of Christ we glory, towering over the wrecks of time.[4]

[1] Saint John 12:32.

[2] Saint John 13:31.

[3] Saint John 16:33.

[4] Hymn 441, Stanza 1.