Good Friday Message
In John’s Gospel – read powerfully today – we see the accusers who come looking for Jesus. And he immediately responds – “here I am – I am He”
I’m struck by how direct and immediate his response was.
He knew his hour had come – he knew why he was there – and who he was. His identity shines forth in this moment.
Then he says: if you are looking for me, let these people go
In these words are contained the whole essence and meaning of Good Friday…..the identity and purpose of Christ our Saviour is laid bare…
The narrator then explains that this is so Jesus did not lose any that had been given to him by the Father. Jesus looks around at his disciples, family and friends surrounding him. He does not want any of them – drawn by the Father to him – to be lost.
Jesus looks out at us, disciples, family and friends of his – drawn to him by the Father – and does not want any of us to be lost.
And on Easter Saturday, as the tradition tells us, Jesus goes down to hell and looks out at those lost there – all people whose hearts were drawn by the Father – and he isn’t willing that any of them should be lost either.
The connection and partnership between Jesus and his Father is shown here – they are in this together, their plan for salvation is being played out.
Jesus is not at any point engaged in shielding his disciples – or us – from his angry Father. He is not going to the Cross so that the anger of the Father for our sins is redirected onto himself. He is going to the Cross as part of a plan they have worked out together for the Salvation, ultimately, of the whole world. A plan that will defeat everything that stands against the love and goodness of God – death, disease, injustice, violence – will be taken down by this plan.
As John 3:16 tells us – “God SO LOVED THE WORLD that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish – or be lost – but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him! “
That’s a very clear message about the motivation of the Father and the Son – love propelled the events of Good Friday – love led Jesus to step forward and make the sacrifice – love led Jesus to set his friends free that day in the Garden– and love is what enables us to be redeemed today.
As he steps forward, Jesus shoulders upon himself the weight of all the mess in the world – ALL the sin, ALL the shame, ALL betrayals, ALL the disease, death and violence that humans have made – everything that stands in the way of the love of God being received by his world. He sacrifices himself, in order to divert the entire course of human history….
This was the only way that newness could come into the world – by taking on the violent, unjust and horrifying system – which he submits to – he shows us the way that God deals with sin. He subsumes it into himself and defeats it, so it cannot continue its course. The love found between the members of the Trinity overflows, and gathers us in. Love is the only thing that can defeat the powers of darkness.
We’ve been reminded again in recent weeks of what that kind of sacrifice looks like. Lt Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, a French military policeman, stepped forward in a siege in a supermarket and exchanged places with a hostage so she could go free.
He had been deployed in Iraq and won the Cross for Military Valour for his peacekeeping work there. In December last year, he had taken part in a training exercise that simulated a terror attack in a supermarket. He was prepared and ready to commit to the work of that day and what it required of him.
The gunman had taken a hostage as a human shield when the Lieutenant stepped in and swapped himself for her. He also left a mobile phone on a table with an open line, so the police outside knew exactly what was going on.
His brother Cedric said of his actions: “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known he did not have a chance of surviving. His actions helped bring an end to a siege that left 3 people dead and 16 injured.”
He took upon himself the evil, darkness and suffering of that day in order to bring it to an end, in actions that his priest felt were entirely motivated by his faith…
Good Friday can feel quite an overwhelming day in some ways. It can be hard for us to hear the story again – to journey with Jesus through the pain and feel that we are responsible – implicated – in this story of horror and violence.
But even though we are, each of us, caught up in the events of Good Friday – this was always part of God’s plan. Christ died once, for all, and we are all invited into the new way of life being inaugurated today, and fulfilled on Sunday.
We are all invited into the love of the Trinity – the divine dance known as the perichoresis – where love eternally flows – is given and received – and we are invited to participate in sharing this overflowing life – of beauty – of reconciliation – in the world around us.
As recipients of such grace, we are invited to join Jesus and take up our own cross – to accept that we are also called to stand against that which marred the face of Christ – to stand for peace and not violence – to work for justice – to set people free – to contend for those who struggle – to share the love of the Father which is stronger than death. Amen.