April 2nd, 2021

          A blessed Good Friday to everyone. It is a time for reflection and thanksgiving. The passion of Jesus Christ is one of the great signs of the love of God. Writing to the Romans, the apostle Paul said: “For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). And the gospel says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

 The gospels present this truth in the sayings Jesus delivered during his crucifixion, commonly known as the Seven Words, or Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross:

Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Jesus forgives his enemies even as they are dealing with him violently. This is true love--the greatest reversal one can imagine.

Luke 23:43: Verily, I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in paradise. Jesus draws us into paradise when we feel we are in hell.

John 19:26–27: Woman, behold thy son; Behold thy mother. Jesus builds a sacred family, entrusting us to each other.

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus cries out the utter loneliness and existential alienation of the human being. Most likely everyone has felt alone in the world at some time; some feel alone all the time. Most have, at some point, felt disappointed in the seeming absence of God or orphaned by God. Jesus has also felt this pain of ours, and he gives it to God.

John 19:28: I thirst. Jesus identifies with our human needs; he knows what we need from moment to moment, even the simplest desire to drink water.

John 19:30: It is finished. Jesus declares victory over sin and death; he declares the fulfilment of his mission to save us and bring us to God. There is nothing unfinished in it, nothing more to add to his Incarnation and Passion. It is perhaps not unlike a doctor reassuring a patient awakening after a surgery; the doctor declares that the procedure is finished and successful. The cure has arrived.

Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit. Jesus entrusts himself in faith to the grace of God. One might even say he abandons himself totally, placing his life and death into the loving hands of God—even in the moment when God seems most far.

          If the words of Jesus on the cross are a message for humanity, then they are also integral to the message we share with others. Each of these seven words informs our living and sharing of the gospel. To forgive the unforgivable. To share the promise of paradise. To become a sacred family in Christ. To know the utter pain of humanity and of Christ has been given to God. To know human needs and minister to them. To declare the gracious work of God complete, successful and without flaw. To entrust our bodies and spirits to God. And if these are all prayers, they are prayers that are answered in the Easter revelation, and in the day to day revelation of life in Christ.

          Meditating on Good Friday can be difficult. One might drift towards jubilant triumphalism that ignores the suffering of Christ and the suffering of humanity. One might drown in the despair of Calvary and fail to see the grace and victory that the cross signifies. The apostle Paul, who suffered considerably in his ministry, found the cross to be a sign of hope in the midst of suffering, and offers a meditation that I found very balanced, practical, and mystical all at the same time:  

          “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-18).

          It is Good Friday. Let light shine out of darkness. Carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus, let us manifest the life of Jesus.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.  (Jude 1:24-25)

Jesus loves you!

Peace in Christ,

Stephen Hasbrouck

Fairview Baptist Church