Good Friday

March 30, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

When I was growing up in the United Church of Christ, several of the U.C.C. Churches in my home town would get together on Good Friday and hold a three hour service in which there would be sermons on the seven last words of Jesus. 

These seven last words, or perhaps more appropriately phrases, of Jesus are gleaned from all four Gospels.  What I would like to do today is to look at the phrases found in the Passion Gospel of St. John, which we have heard sung today.  These phrases have much to say about Jesus and our relationship with Him.

I want to begin, however, with Jesus’ silence.  In our gospel lesson today, Jesus begins in silence before Pontius Pilate.  Jesus does not try to talk Himself out of His fate.  Jesus’ silence assures that He will be crucified. 

Jesus’ silence also speaks of His innocence.  He knows that the charges against Him are made up.  He knows that He could speak a few words and Pilate would free Him.  But He does not speak to the charges brought against Him, and this is what leads to the first phrase that we hear from Jesus.

The first phrase that we heard sung by Jesus today is in response to Pilate’s anger that Jesus would not speak to him.  Pilate tries to show his power of Jesus by saying, “Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?"   Jesus response is: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”

This points us to the truth that Jesus chose to die for us.  Jesus submits Himself to the earthly authority given to this Roman governor.  It reminds us that we, too, live in this world and are under the authority of this world.  However, just as Jesus chose to die for us, we can choose to follow Him as our true King. 

To follow Jesus as King means, however, that there will be times in which the way in which we choose to live our lives will be in stark contrast to the world around us.  Although temporal authority makes the rules, we live by the words of Jesus.

Next, there are two phrases which I think need to be seen together -- “Woman behold you son.  Behold your mother.”  First, it is important to note that even on the Cross; Jesus cares for those for whom He loves. 

As a priest, I am privileged to be with people that are coming to the end of their earthly journey and preparing for their eternal journey.  Sometimes it is important to reassure the person who is dying that those whom they leave behind will be cared for.  Jesus was making sure that both His mother and His disciple were going to be cared for when He died.

But I would like to take this a step further.  As most of you know, I am someone who loves the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I believe that from the cross that Jesus gives her to all of His disciples, the Church, as their mother.  Mary loves all of the Church, and she prays for us, as do all of the saints.  And her words to us are just like the ones spoken of in St. John’s gospel when Jesus turns the water into wine at the Wedding Feast in Cana – “Do whatever He tells you.” 

Next, there are the simple words, “I thirst.”  One of the early heresies that the Church had to combat was the idea that Jesus was not fully human.  If He was not fully human, then He would not have felt pain on the cross.  These words, “I thirst”, dispel this heresy.  Jesus is fully human and He did feel all of the pain of the cross.  He became thirsty. 

But, it is also true that Jesus was fully divine.  And because of His divinity, Jesus not only feels physical pain of the cross, but He also feels the pain of bearing all of the sins of the world.  Every sin ever committed from the beginning of time until the end.  Your sins and my sins.  Jesus feels the weight of our sins on the cross in addition to the physical pain.

And then there are the words “It is finished.”  Jesus journey as a human being in this world is finished.  Jesus felt everything that we felt.  Jesus was born the way we are born.  He felt love and betrayal.  He experienced all of what it means to be a human – and yet He did not sin.

“It is finished.”  Jesus pain is finished.   His earthly work is finished.  He lived as we did, and now He has died as we did.  But, the story is not finished.  Of course, that is for another day.  AMEN.