RCL Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13–53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, Saint John 18:1–19:42
There is no short form of the Passion today. On Good Friday, we have the entirety of it, and the Passion always is according to Saint John. Throughout that Gospel, Jesus is the Lamb of God, and his divinity and his sublimity are fully portrayed.
These portrayals combine with the circumstances of our existence as human beings to produce the discomfort you and I always feel on Good Friday. This discomfort burdens our hearts appropriately. God intends us to have this discomfort. God intends us to act upon it. God intends us to be shaped by this discomfort. God intends us to be drawn to him by this discomfort.
The discomfort is born in part by the triangle we are in. This triangle is not the usual sort of triangle, created necessarily by the tension or even the conflict of the other two parties. Ours is not that sort of triangle at all. The triangle we are in is created by the love that God the Father and God the Son have for us. It is created by the power they have to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God the Father knows that we cannot bear the punishment we deserve and live to tell about it. God the Father sent his Son to take on our human nature, to suffer, and to die upon the cross precisely because his Son is able to bear the punishment we deserve and to be raised from the dead. Whatever we feel our powers or our purpose is, on this day we see plainly how our lives come down to accepting or rejecting this glorious and magnificent gift. We are able in the power of the Holy Spirit to be drawn into and to be part of the divine love that brings about the Passion.
To make that right choice, however, we need to transcend our feelings and our instincts. Our discomfort comes from them. It comes from our natural and human aversion to the suffering and the pain that the crucifixion so thoroughly unfolds. We could very well want to be somewhere else. We may question a religion based upon the horrific wickedness of killing an innocent man. We do not like to see pain and suffering. We do not like to see that the pain and the suffering are instrumental to our benefit.
Even so, our human nature allows us to think and to reason. And if we start with so simple an idea that God is good, we can find our way to that place where we understand everything associated with God is good, even the pain and the suffering, even the mockery of the purple robe and the crown of thorns. Because God is good, God touches nothing that is bad. Because God is good, no outcome falls outside God’s goodness. Every horrific act, every injustice, and every crime can be redeemed and turned to the good that God is.
In the power of the Holy Spirit we can find our way to understand that the entire effort of God to make and to sustain creation was an effort of good. When we have arrived there, when we have surmounted our feelings and instincts, we find that it is in our power to accept God’s love.
For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation: thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving. Hymn 158, Stanzas 4 and 5