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Good Friday: Friday, April 7, 2023

John 18:1 – 19:42

Have you ever had a piercing moment of clarity, or insight, or we might even say revelation or epiphany? Sometimes this happens when our everyday comforts have been stripped away. (I think Lent tries to pull us in that direction.) Or you might also have experienced such a moment, say, at the death of a loved one. That last bit of energy they receive in order to say goodbye. Whispered prayers, or hymns that you can tell they are hearing, long after they’ve been responsive. Or those final breaths that lead to a silence and peace that they had not had in some time.

There have been moments over this last week in which we’ve walked with Jesus to and in Jerusalem, in which the curtain’s been pulled back. In last Sunday’s Passion gospel, the centurion at the foot of the Cross saw something that led him to say “truly this was God’s son.”

Before that, on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus had supper with a group of his close friends, and there Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’s feet with costly ointment, as if preparing his body for what was to come. (Because she had insight, clarity, maybe a revelation of what was to come.)

Not long after, Jesus, struggling with the task ahead, is praying, and met by a voice, that some thought must have just been thunder.

In one of the Gospels, Pilate’s wife sees behind the curtain, having been given a dream, and she says to the governor: have nothing to do with that man. And today, in our reading, maybe Pilate is, for a moment, given some insight. “Now when Pilate heard [the crowd], he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, Where are you from? But Jesus gave him no answer.”

And last Sunday, and this Sunday, Gospel speaks of an earthquake. At Jesus’ death, it seems, even the stones cry out, seeing beyond the ordinary, more so than, for instance, the crowds.

Jesus came from a people who trusted in this phenomenon of the curtain being pulled back. Through visions, dreams, voices, and the experience of liberation — what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating at the Passover — this was a people who believed in a God that had chosen them, and was in communion… communication with them.

And yet at Golgotha we experience not a glorious vision of, say, Jacob’s Ladder, with angels ascending and descending, connecting heaven and earth. No, the vision on this day is all too cruel and familiar in our world. As the opening exhortation from Palm Sunday put it, “his crown is thorns, and his throne a cross.” That, our Church proclaims, is the connecting tissue between heaven and earth; God and humanity.

The Good of Good Friday is that the curtain is pulled back, and God’s love is known… not just when we’ve been ‘good.’ Not just for the spiritual superheroes of history; for the interpreters of dreams; the people who hear voices, or speak in tongues of angels.

The Good news of this day is that God, in Christ, came to us “while we were still sinners,” knowing full well what we, in our fear and brokenness (maybe even wretchedness) tend to do to truth and beauty.

On Good Friday, by looking at the Cross we recognize that God has taken that which seems to us — to the wise, the rational… the Pilates, the high priests, Pharisees, Peters, Judases, and disciples — takes and embraces that which seems to us and them to be the farthest from God… the opposite of God (betrayal, abandonment, pain, and death), and goes right into it. So that truly God has left no stone unturned. (Or, unrolled.)

One later interpreter will describe it poetically: “we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

© 2023 The Rev’d Matthew Kieswetter