4/18/14- Year A
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are in good company this night (today), my brothers and sisters, as we stand before the scene depicted by St. John. We hear of the whole cast of characters that we are all familiar with in the Passion story. There are fellow kinsmen of our Lord who bring charges against him, arrest him by the word of his betrayer and lead him before Caiaphas and a kangaroo court. There is the begrudging Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, who seems to want to find a way not to do what the masses are begging him to do, who pushes back against them, but only ever so briefly after quickly caving to the mere mention of Caesar. There are the guards who beat our Lord, ripping his flesh open with each crack of the whip embedded by glass and metal. The ones who would also put a cross upon his shoulders, lead him outside the gate and nail him to that same tree. There are those who mock and taunt him along the Via Dolorosa and at Golgotha, deriding him as he gives up his last breaths and proclaims that all is now finished. There are the thieves who watch our Lord’s passion from crosses of their own, one to his right and the other to his left. We all know these characters make up this Good Friday for they all play a role in the sacrifice of our Lord.
We may even find ourselves in their places as we too have brought this shameful act upon our Lord, for that is the reality of our own sin, but when I say that we are in good company tonight (today) that is not the company that I mean. Rather on this Good Friday with the cross that stands before us now, raised before our eyes, we find ourselves with another company: the company of the Church and her saints. There in their agony and bitter grief—weeping tears, tears as the psalmist describes flowing down faces, flooding beds and drenching couches—they stand by Jesus’ Cross. We, brothers and sisters, find ourselves in the company of Mary His mother and her sisters, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and at least from the apostles the beloved disciple John. On Good Friday, we weep with them on the fate that has befallen the one whom we love just as they did, Jesus.
We stand in the beloved disciple John’s painful shock and disbelief that all that Jesus had spoken about regarding the things regarding his end are now finished. That he would be betrayed by one who would call him Rabbi and one that John himself had likely called friend. We can feel his own sense of being betrayed by Judas and the anger that he undoubtedly felt. We might sense his own foolishness as it wasn’t long before that he was bargaining with Jesus for his own seat of glory next to Jesus. The seat of which he now sees is not in palace or throne room, but the seat of the Cross. For we too are His beloved disciples and as we hear of what happened to Jesus we can be filled with that same self-righteous anger that we would have done better. That we would have sniffed Judas out from the start. That we would have done things differently. That is our own foolishness, which is laid open and bare for the Jesus’ cross. Though we might pridefully think such things, Jesus death lays before us the true reality of that sentiment, that all have fallen short of the glory of God. Even those with good intentions, even John the beloved, will fall always short in comparison to the glory of God and His Christ.
We stand in the depth of grief that St. Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus had done a profound and remarkable work in her. Healing her from the seven demons that had taken hold of her life. While Luke mentions the number seven specifically, we must not forget the significance of such a number in the Jewish mind. Seven is not just a real number, but symbolic of wholeness and completeness. Mary was not only possessed, but thoroughly, completely, and wholly possessed and from that Jesus lovingly healed her. So great was his loving deed for her that she was almost never not by his side. She was there in the good and she stands with him now at this most dark time of her teacher and friend. She laments, she mourns of what has transpired and we too who have been washed and healed from our own possession to sin, death, and the strangle hold of the devil lament and mourn. We are in her company.
We are also in the company of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of our Lord, who in indescribable agony watches something that no parent should ever have to watch. We stand with her as she watches the spear pierce her son’s most holy flesh and feel the words of Simeon being fulfilled, a sword will pierce through your own soul also. Those of us who love our Lord Jesus cannot miss or gloss over the painful sacrifice that Mary herself endures, giving up not only God’s Son, but her own Son to be crucified. That is the reality of the Incarnation that the blood He sheds is like the blood of all children given from their parents. Hearing His passion today we find ourselves like Mary throughout her life, pondering all of these words, all of His deeds, and treasuring them in our hearts. We stand in the company of these saints, these fellow disciples this night. We stand in the company of that nascent Church and hear how even from the Holy Cross, Jesus lovingly cares for them, behold your mother, behold your son. In his last words Jesus sees that we are cared for, by calling them not to friendship alone or cordial fellowship, but to be a family, to be His family in the world.
Lastly, we are in the company of the Crucified Lord. Looking at our hands we see no gaping holes. Feeling our side we see no gash from the spear’s carnage. Looking out I see none of us wearing a crown of thorns and having washed feet last night I know of nail wounds there either. Yet St. Paul says, we have been crucified with Christ. Gazing at our Lord’s cross we see a man who is not us, but who is one like us. We see not ourselves, but yet that is the very place that He took for us. In His crucifixion, He has taken our crucifixion. By His death, He has taken our own death. By baptism we have received upon ourselves His incarceration in the tomb, we are buried with Him. In this is found the goodness of this day. That we do not bear His wounds, but that we are marked by them. That we are not nailed to His cross, but rather it is imprinted upon our brows and becomes the redemption of our lives. His cross for our sake is remembered and recalled as we make the sign of the holy cross upon our bodies. That our body is not given up, broken and shed, but Jesus’ was. He has given His life for ours. He has loved us to the end, even to the end of the cross.
Finding ourselves hidden in the mortal wounds of our Lord, we also then find ourselves in the Father’s love for His Son. Though He sent prophets and we stoned them. Though at the end of the ages He sent His beloved into the world to speak peace, light, and eternal love and truth and we crucified Him. He will not let His Son’s worldly sentence go unanswered. He will not let His Son be deprived His justice and His love. The eternal Father, does has His own Son did to Lazarus, He will call Jesus out of the grave, start His heart pumping again and let his own blood given for the life of all, give life to His own body once more. He will vindicate Him, raising Him from the tomb. Though our nature and bodies end in death, the Father declares life to be the final word for His son and He declares life to be the final word for those who are hidden in the wounds of His Son, under the shelter of his outstretched arms, clothed by the shadow of the cross. We, in the company of Mary, Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and John the beloved, have died with Christ and by the Father’s love we are raised with Him.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.