Good Friday 2014

People the world over are moved by the reading of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, people from every circumstance of life, every age, every background, almost every temperament and personality type. There is something so powerful about this story; it touches the soul in a deep place. The betrayal of Jesus, the false accusations, the jealousy, the fear of losing power and control, the beatings and abuse, the show trials and miscarriage of justice, the torture and the execution of Jesus touch the human story. There has been in human history much injustice, much cruelty, much falsehood, much abuse of power, and much betrayal of what is good and decent. And all of that history, from Adam and Cain to the present day, is summed up in the passion and death of Jesus. As John tells us in his gospel, the forces of wickedness came together to crucify Jesus.

We should see the passion and death of Jesus when people are false accused, brutally handled, when people conspire to do wrong, when politicians compromise their principles and integrity for their own advantage, when the courts and law enforcement don’t serve the people, when greed rules the day, when people are petty and spiteful toward one another, when we chose the villain and vice over the good man and virtue. We can see the suffering of Jesus in our present world; we can see the forces that crucified Jesus still at work in our present world. When people and the environment are sacrificed for corporate interests, when politicians serve the interests of the few over the many, when we seek to replace the truth with lies, and when we try to reinforce lies with force and violence, we can still find the forces that crucified Jesus in our world.

Wherever people are suffering, God is in solidarity with them, whether the suffering is from human action or inaction, or from disease or natural disaster or any other aspect of the human condition, God is in solidarity with those who suffer, even those who justly suffer. God has compassion on all his creation. The great sign of this is Jesus on the cross. God has come to us not in power and majesty but in weakness and human frailty.

This is one part of the story. I said the forces of wickedness came together to crucify Jesus and they did. That is what Peter told the Jewish leadership after Jesus’ resurrection on the Day of Pentecost. But the other half of it – and the greater half – is that God has a plan. God used our freedom and even the acts of wicked people to ultimately bring about good. If you plan wickedness, let me tell you, you cannot defeat God. If you plan wickedness, eventually, you will undo yourself. God can always wait out, out-maneuver, out-think, out-love us and every form of sin and evil. That is what he did on Good Friday. Some of the Pharisees wanted to dispose of a heretical rabbi. The Chief Priests wanted to be rid of someone who threatened their corrupt system. Both groups envied Jesus. Pilate wanted to protect himself politically; Judas was dissatisfied with Jesus. The devil just wanted to destroy the Christ, the Son of God. And they all brought him to the cross but God turned it all around. What should have been Black Friday became Good Friday because through Jesus’ love and sacrifice the human race was saved from the power of sin and death. The great enemy of humanity is defeated on the Cross. “By his stripes, we are healed.” You can’t defeat God. You can’t fool God. You can frustrate his purpose for a time, but you can’t defeat God.

The suffering that Jesus endured on Good Friday goes beyond physical suffering. He suffered the whole reality of sin for us. He descended into the depth of hell for us, but hell could not contain him. He broke the bonds of hell through divine love. The message of Good Friday is that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. We worship that Son, the only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Fr. Brian Spence