If I’m completely honest with myself, and with each of you, I’ve I’ve always had a hard time with Good Friday. There’s probably lots of reasons. First and foremost, operating from our perspective as Easter people, you know, those who live after the resurrection of Jesus live with a healthy dose of confirmation bias. I’ve gone so far in the past as to bemoan, on multiple occasions, the fact that Christians wear crosses rather than empty tombs as a statement of faith. I admit this is ridiculous, but bear with me. While some may rush past good friday and everything associated with it, be it for the graphic imagery, bad theology, Mel Gibson, or just not wishing to think about it either for foolishness or stumbling blocks, we have to resist that temptation. I have to resist this temptation. Why? Because when we pause before the cross, we glimpse directly the truest manifestation of God’s unfathomable love poured out for each of us, the very presence and nature of God gazing down at us in the person of Jesus Christ, that’s why.
For this reason we must never shy away from the cross. I realize this now. This is a day that we must not ignore or become indifferent towards as we become desensitized or even numb to the violence that confronts us each day. When it seems as though any direction we turn we hear of a school shooting, terrorist attack, gross miscarriage of justice, and any whole host of brutality, it’s easy to wrap ourselves in a cocoon to prevent dread or despair. We cannot tune out or ignore the violence of the cross, for in doing so, we lose the very ability remember who it is, through the cross that provides the means and the power to overcome death and violence in the first place!
We must always give ourselves the space to be fully present in what the cross says. Remember, in Jesus’ day, the Romans were much more interested in what the cross said to the person seeing it than what it said about the person on it. The cross was a reminder of power. The full force and threat of Rome’s might was represented in the cross for all to see, and cower in response. The cross was a threat and a promise. The cross was a reminder that you may be in your own land but it could be taken in a moment’s notice. But that isn’t what it says to us.
Whereas for Rome the cross was about power and intimidation, for Jesus the cross was a means to not only disrupt and challenge the notion of power and how it was wielded, but defeat it outright. Pilate states, “Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, can you not hear the slight hint of annoyance when he says "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.” Jesus has no time for earthly power, he’s concerned with a power that far outweighs and transcends the temporal power that was lorded over a people. Thanks be to God Jesus’ followers gave up worrying about earthly power a long time ago…. No, Jesus wasn’t worried in power the way the world understood it, he was about to change the game altogether. Think about it, when God is crucified, the needle is definitely moving somewhere. Jesus had something different to say about the cross, and it holds true today.
Brian Zahnd, in his wonderful book “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” spells it out this way. He says, “The cross is where God in Christ absorbs human sin and recycles it into forgiveness. At Golgotha humanity violently sinned its sins into Jesus. Jesus bore these sins all the way down to death and left them there.” He continues, “When we look at the cross we see the lengths to which God will go to forgive sin. The cross is both ugly and beautiful. The cross is as ugly as human sin and as beautiful as divine love-but in the end love and beauty win.” This is what the cross says to us yesterday, today, and tomorrow, that life and love, not death, hold the final word. That, dear Pilate, is truth.
Just as Jesus showed his disciples last night that the way of Love was marked by humble service He shows us today the way of the cross is first and foremost marked by forgiveness. This is our inherited legacy of the cross and the way of Jesus. To forgive, we must love. To love, we must first be loved. And to see that love, to drink deeply from the life giving draught poured out for us we must first and foremost kneel before the cross. Jesus is what God had and has to say, and it is said most clearly, and resonates most deeply at the cross.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your name. Amen.
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