Saturday, 23 April 2011

Good Friday.

We have entered Easter through Palm Sunday, then the journey of Holy Week, until finally we've reached the grief of Good Friday.  This is the most emotionally powerful day in the whole of the Christian calendar, the culmination of the entire story of Jesus’ life and ministry, of the entire story of the Bible: the day they murdered my Lord, the day everything changed.

Good Friday we call it.  And that may indeed seem a strange name when people first see it.  Good Friday. The day my Lord was murdered. Jesus, the perfect man, who loved so greatly, was killed for a crime he did not commit. In the words of St Paul, “We preach Christ Crucified, which is foolishness to the Jews and a stumbling block to the Gentiles”.

But Good Friday it certainly is.  And as I always thought, it's just crazy enough to work.  Good Friday?  The day that our Jesus was murdered.  This day we name good Friday?   Yes, we do, and how could it be any other way, knowing what wonderful thing came from it?  A strange thing it may seem, a true paradox: but so is the true mystery, the wonder, the mixed joy and sadness that defines our human life. Through tears and weeping and brokenness victory comes beyond all the strength of the world.

It is the most perfect name:  Elegant, precise, transcendent.  Good Friday.  The most simple and positive of all descriptions.  A good man, a good day, a good deed, a good life; a Good Friday.

Any more elaborate description would merely make obvious the total inability of description to do any justice.  Far better to leave almost entirely unsaid, to be seen, to be felt, to be experienced.  So the reality can shine through. So nothing is said apart from all that needs to be said.  Good Friday: the very definition of Goodness, the day everything changed.

On the cross of our pain God Almighty was tortured to death, suffering pain we can hardly imagine, for a crime he did not commit. For he so loved the world he gave his life, forgave even those who murdered him, loved even them, to save all men forever from their sins.  Jesus, God Almighty, emptied himself out on the cross, to become less than the least of men: butcher's meat. Another unseen victim of casual brutality and oppression.

Christ died on the cross to take away the sin of the world and so he experienced in his body the pain that sin has caused. He suffered it himself, as all his children have suffered at one time or another.  As he shared our life he shared our pain. Through sharing our humanity our pain could truly flow to him, so also through that sharing his divine power, to overcome all death and fear and hate and pain and weakness forever, could truly flow to us. So we need never fear those things again. God contains all things within him, so when God came into his own creation, he had to suffer our pain on the Cross that he had always carried within him.  It could be no other way.

Just as during his life Jesus healed the sick, gave  hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, even raised from the dead: to heal physical bodies; so in his own suffering on the cross he healed all the souls of the world.  As during his life he preached how even the least of sinners is held in the love of God, so in his death he became the least of people, and won eternal glory for heaven, even as he descended into Hell.

Christ become one of the least of God’s children, lest in our joy we forget their pain, and to remind us that we may not rest in joy until the least of God’s children are rescued from that pain forever. Since his people suffered pain here on earth, in his salvation of mankind Christ suffered pain as well. So we know that even in our most terrible pain, joy and salvation are assured forever by that sacrifice.

And so the cross of our pain became the tree of our life. He suffered so he can take away our suffering. So from the death of the one perfect human, Life was given to all the Imperfect humans who ever live.  His life was lost to slay death, his blood was shed to wash all clean, his love to cure all the hate in the world: to ensure Love would never be overcome. Good Friday indeed. It could take no other name.

We remember now that pain God suffered on the cross at Calvary for our salvation, so that he could be one with his children as he was in Eden, as though time run in reverse on that fateful day.  For as God walked in the garden of Eden in the evening just before Adam and Eve were divided from him by their sin and rejection, so Christ walked in Gethsemane in the evening before he gave himself up to death to bring Life forever.  Just as our primordial Mother and Father, who represent all mankind, hid themselves in shame before the sight of God after their disobedience, so Christ trembled in fear before the coming pain. But still he submitted himself to that same pain, to bring glory to God by bringing salvation to mankind.  At the end, returning to the beginning, so that God may once more walk in the garden beside us in the evening.


Many Thanks to D_m_i_t_r_y's photostream for the incredible picture of the Crucifixion.

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