RCL Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13—53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, Saint John 18:1—19:42

As large as the canvas was last night, so it is small today. It’s as if the Almighty intends to focus our attention on a detail of the whole, a detail that is essential, without which the canvas could not be.

I’ll try to introduce it to you carefully, so as not to cause you to look aside. For today of all days is the day when we are to look and to look without reserve, without hesitation, and, most of all, without flinching. Because, once we look, the focus revolves to us. As much as today is about Him, the successive days are about us, specifically how we live and whether we live as though we have understood what he does for us today.

Today is especially difficult if you have trouble accepting compliments. Today we are helpless to do anything about what we witness. We are like the hundreds of Parisians who stood looking on while their glorious Cathedral burned. There wasn’t a thing that they could do to stop the damage. They were powerless in the face of devastation neither glimpsed nor imagined before. But unlike the burning of Notre-Dame, the horror we witness today is for our benefit, and yet we have trouble accepting it. The compliment is too large. The benefit to us is too magnificent.

That little detail on the gargantuan canvas redounds to our benefit. Our hesitation to accept it, our inability to glimpse it, perhaps concerns the immense value of the gift to us. The Lord Jesus, having debased himself last night to wash his disciples’ feet, takes even a further step today.

The glory of today is that he can do and does more than his abject abasement of himself at the Last Supper. He does for us on the Cross what we cannot do for ourselves.

From the very beginning, the Divine accounting, the Almighty’s economy, has been established with stakes we cannot raise, with collateral we cannot amass, and live to speak of it. The cost of our sins is our foothold in humanity. If we pay the bill we have ordered, we do so at the cost of ourselves.

And, from the very beginning, the Divine accounting, the Almighty’s economy has included the great gift that we are obliged to witness today. That great gift Isaiah foresaw and previewed when he prophesied: “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”[1]

Like the Parisians, we have no alternative but to look on while the Lord does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot look away, because it is clear that He undertook his Passion and His Crucifixion to benefit us and all human beings at all times, to give us our lives back, when justly we owe them, when the Almighty has every fair right to claim them as His own.

The spectacle is too much to take in, like the collapse of the great wooden spire that stood so proudly and elegantly above the transept. But think of what a horrific spectacle it would be if we let the Lord be slaughtered and refuse the benefit He intends us to enjoy. That is much worse.

And so, as much as we are powerless today to help ourselves, so tomorrow our power is the stronger. We have the power to choose to accept his gift and to live as he would have us live. This was the plan of the Almighty from the very beginning. His accounting, His economy, allow us to accept His gift and to thrive in His ways from generation to generation. It is entirely possible and even providential, that we “look on [H]im [W]hom [we] have pierced”[2] and live, having accepted the Lord’s great gift. Is not that the Lord’s doing and the Lord’s providence? And did not the Psalmist see it clearly when he declared, “My soul shall live for him; my descendants shall serve him; * they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.”[3]


[1] Isaiah 53:4-5.

[2] Saint John 19:37. [KJV]

[3] Psalm 22:29.