A Good Friday Meditation
April 19, 2019
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: John 19:30
Let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
In TS Elliot’s great poem “The Four Quartets” he meditates upon Christ’s actions on the cross and laments the calling of this day good. I think it is write for him to be troubled by that – and right for us – for although we know why it is good – we should feel dissonance.
As I was driving to the church this morning I was contemplating this. It has always struck me as particularly interesting that this Friday is Good – while the biggest most manic day in retail sales in our country is called black. The comparison here has always struck me as particularly odd. That some how there is a darkness over our rushing to consume, and yet today – the day that the perfect man died for our sins – this is called good – and it is good – it is the best Friday, but not in the way in which we expect, not in the way in which we desire. But it is good because it began the beckoning of the kingdom, it commenced the crowning of the perfect king – who will be seated on the thrown of David for eternity.
As I drove this morning I noticed something else. Most mornings I head to the church around 8 am – if I leave a little earlier the streets are quiet – if I am forgetful and leave a little later I find parents and workers rushing to work as I am rushing. This morning, with many schools closed for the holiday, there was an odd tension – there were less cars, still workers, like me rushed to where they belonged, but the parents were gone.
For so many reasons – Good Friday is always a little unsettling – the normal balance is upset, what we expect doesn’t seem to be there. Even in how we worship there’s a darkness. Today is the only day that we use black – even funerals are done in white or purple. Today we do not turn on our lights, not for some macabre reason, but that we recognize the incredible stillness, the incredible gravity, the incredible tragedy of the day.
Then we hear St. John’s Gospel account, and we hear the final words of Christ on the cross – “it is finished,” he utters and then he gave up the ghost.
Christ is not saying that His life is finished – though it is for a moment – he is saying that the task which he was sent to do is finished. It is finished in that final moment. As we contemplate this, it is striking to meditate upon those who mock Christ as he hangs there dying. They knew him as an amazing teacher and a phenomenal miracle worker, but now they see him dying.
As we look back upon the crucifixion we have the privilege of knowing the whole story – we know the beginning – that Christ was God incarnate vulnerable in that precious manger in Bethlehem, He had come to walk among us – then we know the middle – of Christ’s great teaching , we know that the day we commemorate was a false ending – His death today on on the cross was not in fact the end – because we know what happens next the new beginning – we know that on Easter Day two-thousand years ago Christ rose from the dead. We have this privilege, but we can forget how striking His death would have been if we were in that crowd. We forget that these people would have known how great his miracles were – and then there he was – surely he could rip himself down. That would show the Romans.
Yet – he didn’t – he lay there – gasping and dying, suffocating, blood slowly dripping to the ground
Then in those final moments he muttered those words “it is finished,” and it was. There, the hopes of a nation to be free, the hopes that their oppressors would some how be driven out was all gone. But our hopes sprung to life in that moment.
For Christ’s words – it is finished means His painful task was over, his death sealed our life, his death washed away our sins, his death broke open our access to God, access to a spiritual holy of holies that the patriarchs, the kings, and the prophets could only imagine was granted to all who might believe. There in that moment our sins were put to rest once and for all and death was defeated. In the bleakest of moments that ever existed, it was finished. It was finished – but the door to the kingdom of heaven started to burst open.
There is a terrific snippet of a sermon that I like to listen to when I’m feeling overwhelmed by my sin or as though I could never be worthy of Christ’s grace and mercy. In it the preacher becomes more and more excited as he describes how Christ paid for all our sins – how Christ is sufficient for our past, present and future sins.
This is critical – I am not worthy, you are not worthy – we cannot earn the grace that we enjoy in Christ – but Christ is worthy and Christ has paid it all – not a portion of it, and then we have to do the rest, no on those dying moments Christ finished it – once and for all.
This, my friends is what makes this Friday good – that in that moment we commemorate today - Christ paid for all our sins, and therefore we are freed from them – freed to serve our living Lord, freed to have fellowship with God – Freed to a life of joy-filled service to God the Father, through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Today’s service breaks our heart for it recalls the terrible price that Christ paid because of our rebellion and the rebellion of all of humanity. We are meant to feel ill at ease about this, we are meant to feel disturbances – but this is good for it tears up our hearts in order that we might fall before the cross, fall before the kings of kings who was crucified and say My Lord and my God save me. And in that learn a further and deeper dependence.
On this Friday that is good – may our hearts be laid before the Cross of Christ that we would know the eternal life that he came to bring.