Good Friday Reflection

Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; vv from Psalm 31; Hebrews 4:14-16 & 5:7-9; John 19:1-37

Sermon (by Fr Antony Claridge)
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘Here, even in the sunshine of early Spring, we find ourselves in the darkest place of all. The passion of Jesus is a gripping drama that reaches down inside each of us. The cry of Jesus, “It is finished” tears into our very souls. Can he be finished? Can this Jesus who spoke only of love and commanded us to love one another be as nothing in a welter of blood and pain? Yet here he is, on the cross. Held by nails. Thorns piercing his skull. Abused. Abased. Flogged. Dying. Murdered.

To the Roman soldiers, Jesus was of little consequence except for the value of his clothing to be dispersed with by the roll of dice. To those who simply obeyed orders went the spoils. No love among the ranks, just greed and the desire for profit without loss.

Dame Julian of Norwich, reflecting on Christ’s agony on the cross wrote “This is the most pain, to see my Love suffer. How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer?”

So might be the lament of the wife and children of Dr. Christopher Delcombe who died last night on the very hospital ward where he had worked to bring solace and healing to his patients. This pain, this sorrow for he or she who was my bliss, and all my joy is seems too much for us to bear. On this Good Friday from out of a global crisis there gathers a community of pain and well might those who suffer loss cry that it is all finished, there is no more hope, just desolation and loneliness.

Look back across the years. There they all are. Jesus’ suffering mother Mary, his disciples and rank upon rank of all who, across the centuries, have had loved ones ripped from their arms by blind, unknowing forces. Of all the pains, is there any pain like this? Any sorrow like unto this sorrow.

Jesus has accomplished the mission given him by the Father. This is the place where now he bows his head and gives up his spirit, the very spirit that will be his gift to all those who believe in him. This is the place where a soldier thrusts a lance into his side and blood and water flow out, signifying the new life that comes from the crucified Christ. To stand near the cross of Jesus is both a painful and a powerful place to be. 

Each of us has taken our place near the cross at particular moments in our lives. We know this place well. Here is the spectre of serious illness, the loss of a family member, the despair of broken relationships, deep and terrible disappointment, fear, desperation loneliness and a thousand other arrows that pierce the soul. To stand near the cross is to know pain.

The Gospels do not suppress or gloss over the pain of the cross. In these days in which talk about a Messiah who has been crucified might seem ludicrous to many people, the Gospel presents the death of Jesus directly and vividly because that is how it was and for some, how it is.

But for Christians, keeping the memory of Jesus’ death is a living reminder that we are never alone as we stand near the crosses in our own lives. While our faith does not magically remove pain , we are assured that Jesus, the crucified Son of God, is in solidarity with us in our here and now. He is close to us, his breath is on our cheeks because he has experienced that place where love seemed lost. 

Those who are brave enough to stand near the cross of Jesus find it a powerful place to be. God finds no joy in human suffering. Remember, it was humankind , not God the Father, who put Jesus on the cross. Christianity is not a cult of suffering. Standing near the cross of Jesus is , in truth, a powerful place to be simply because it is the place where, despite wilfulness of the human race, the power of God is present and at work. 

In the tortured Christ, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and creation, the power to enact God’s dream of love and justice for the whole world. We are with God. God is with us on this Friday which is God’s own Friday. Amen.

[1] John 15:13

[2] Mark 16:39

[3] 1 John 3:1

[4] BCP Collect for Quinquagesima/CW Collect for Second Sunday after Trinity

[5] Ephesians 2:19

[6] Psalm 46:2

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