2022-04-15 Good Friday
We’ve made the journey again this year. The 40 days are over. The Lenten sermons with themes about repentance, praying, fasting and giving are over. The deep purple color, with all of its richness and complexity, is gone, having given way to the ominous darkness of black. We’ve heard the readings again today that call to mind our Lord and His mission. His cross and His passion. Lent truly is a mine filled with rare gems that we often look at, but fail to venture into. Instead, we look at it from afar. We gaze at it, as if we are spectators who have nothing to lose by being present. It’s like watching firefighters put out a fire in a burning building – but standing back behind the caution tape at a safe distance.
Holy Week though, by necessity, demands more from us than a fleeting spectator’s interest. Instead, Holy Week is a call from Christ our Lord to pick up our cross and follow Him. To die with Him on the cross. To be crucified with Him in our Baptism. To take the cross from Golgotha and plant it firmly inside of our hearts and minds. Instead of watching the mystical fire of our Lord’s crucifixion from a safe distance, Christ bids us to come, follow Him. Walk into the flames and be purified through its power and grace. As Christ our Lord dies for us, He calls us to die for Him. We crucify ourselves, our sinful flesh with it’s evil desires and we rise, living for Him in all that we do.
Today, we pause and behold the wonderful cross on which the Prince of glory died. We look at His listless body, His eyes closed. He has spoken to each of us, as members of the human family. “What more can be done for you? I placed you in Paradise with everything you needed or ever wanted, and you rebelled. I led you from captivity through the wilderness to the promised land, and you turned against me. I sent Prophets to speak to you and you killed them. Finally, I, I myself came to speak to you in person with love, and you crucified Me. I rose from the grave to show you that I truly am the Lord of both life and death. I established my Church that I may remain present with you today and always. I speak to you through the Scriptures. I cleanse you in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. I come to abide in you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. I invite you to speak to me in prayer. I am with you in each Sunday liturgy and everyday in your prayers. I richly supply you with daily bread. What more can I do for you? For you, I came down from Heaven. For you I was mocked. For you I was spat upon. For you I am on the Cross. To you I shout every Good Friday through pain and suffering. What does this mean? Is the suffering in vain? Will you stand there, at a safe and comfortable distance away – or will you fall on your knees and acknowledge Me as your Prince of Glory, your suffering Savior?
Today we remember that our very best friend died for us. It was not a murder, it was an offering of love and mercy. It was not some political assassination, it was a sacred sacrifice. The Jews, the Romans, Judas, Pilate – none of them took our Lord Jesus’ life away from Him. He gladly laid it down for us and our salvation. We set our hearts now to follow Christ through His Holy Cross and Passion - not as fence sitters or mere observers, but rather as real participants who see and experience first hand the grace of God that would stop at nothing to forgive, heal and give us life and abundant life at that.
When we look at Jesus on the Cross for us this Good Friday, may we come again to the heart felt realization that God in His love for us has truly done it. “It is finished” says the Lord of life and light. May we realize that the suffering and shame of it all was for us. And may we realize that by His innocent death, He has truly conquered death for us. Our first and final enemy that came into the world by a tree has likewise by a tree been overcome. The tree of life is none other than the tree of the Cross. All glory, laud and honor be to Jesus the crucified and resurrected Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.