Skip to content
Sunday Services have resumed. And you no longer need to RSVP!

Good Friday 2022

Friday, April 15, 2022

Two thousand years ago public executions were not uncommon. It wasn’t reserved for gods and heroes. It wasn’t special in any way. For Jesus and his contemporaries it was overly familiar — the sight of hanging bodies lining the roads. The Romans’ choice of torture and death, it was the fate of rebels and rebellious slaves. It was a symbol for Jesus’s community that their life was not their own.

So we would understand the excitement when word would spread over a few years of travelling ministry, that a descendent of King David had come on the scene. This was someone, like their rulers of old, that was anointed: chosen, commissioned, raised up by God to do God’s work. People would ask: “Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Will we regain our freedom?, in other words.

And while he confounded them again and again, from the Temptation to the Cross, refusing power and security, there had always been something about him that intrigued and convinced; enough to bring out a crowd when he entered Jerusalem. This is someone who had authority over sins; someone who healed and even had power over death; someone who could calm the seas; someone who spoke of utter intimacy with God; someone who spoke of his body as if it had the status of The Temple: the dwelling-place of the Spirit of God.

But those last days in Jerusalem didn’t go as they had assumed, save for the one woman who anointed his body, ahead of time, for burial while he ate at his friend’s house. As clear as Jesus had been with his apostles, talking about his betrayal, death, and eventual rising again, no one could take that seriously. Because the bad parts are disturbing (especially compared to the accolades of hopeful crowds), and the good parts are hard to fathom.

Which is why much of the earliest Christian writing puts the Cross at the centre. It doesn’t let us ignore it:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…

The Cross doesn’t play very well, whether you’re looking for a military ruler, or a miraculous healer. And it certainly doesn’t line up with our ideas about God.

And yet our tradition doesn’t give us other options. It doesn’t let us skirt around the Cross. It makes us take seriously and deal with the folly of the Cross, and the folly of the whole human endeavour (wherein we are inclined to crucify, even those who would help us). It took the disciples some time, and some convincing, that something good came out of the Cross. And it may take us some time, too. Maybe time spent quietly over the next couple of days. Maybe time spent over the rest of our lives. But the Cross, we trust, can change the way we look at life, and look at God. Because it’s a slight yet significant shift from the idea of God “for us” or “doing for us” or “rescuing us” to, as the angel told Joseph, “God WITH us.”

Like the crowds waving their branches, we would prefer a quick and decisive solution to our problems, but the Cross gives us something else. Not a God that snatches us out of the net, but climbs into the net with us. And in doing so, shows us a way to avoid it altogether (if we were willing). In the Cross we see death, pain, helplessness, betrayal, despair, and the worst of humanity: all the things that strike us as farthest from God. But the message of the Cross — the thing that seems a stumbling block and folly — is that God has taken on all of these things, and in doing so, bridges the gap that we previously thought was infinite. The experiences that we thought brought us farthest from God’s reach, are actually revealed to be places that bring us closest to the grieving heart of God.

So this day that seems a desolation and tragedy is named “Good.” Because what seemed to be the farthest place from God, is revealed to be just the opposite. Because of God’s choosing. The God who wants to be with us. The Cross reaches toward the sky, and creates a bridge. The tree of defeat is actually a tree of victory. And today is a most appropriate day to identify those areas in our life, and in our world, that seem farthest from God’s reach. And hold them up, by way of the Cross, and ask that God create something new from what seems dead. Paul writes:
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

© 2022 The Rev’d Matthew Kieswetter