Today we come to the Cross of Good Friday in order to discover the true meaning of Lent in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. I pray that as we quietly and silently look and listen we shall discover what Jesus Christ alone can do for the world. What we must try to penetrate and explore is the love expressed in the crucifixion of our Lord. We shouldn’t be looking for ourselves in the event. That must come later. Suffice it to say that sin, our sin, has brought Jesus to His Cross. So at the outset, we ought to pray for the courage to confess our guilt and to subject ourselves to the punishment that Jesus metes out to us today. Our sin wants God, His Word, and His Spirit far removed from human life. So today we shall be blessed and honored with a bird’s eye view of its success. The Word of God in the flesh is tortured brutally and eliminated swiftly. Sin kills God in the human flesh. But more significantly God allows sin to attempt to kill His being in His Word made flesh, His Son as flesh, in order that on the battlefield of human life, He might respond to it.
What most men doesn’t understand yet is that Christ it taking our sin, its creator Satan, and their desired end in death, into Himself in order to re-commission them into the service of salvation. If mortal men ever could have found a way to face evil and use it for the good, he would never have fallen. Christ alone can foment this sabotage and subversiveness. St. Paul reminds us that, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3. 5), and, by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2. 8-9). Or as Article XI insists: We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Jesus Christ alone can entice sin, death, and Satan into His web of love in order to overturn and overcome than control of all men.
So we must come to the Cross today, first as those whose sin kills God. Christ Jesus is our enemy. He is God’s Word made flesh. He has said, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (St. Luke ix. 23) His threat to the customary possession of a safe and predictable worldly happiness is proof that He intends to kill not only the big sins, which we pride ourselves in having forsaken, but the little ones too. Jesus questions our respectable conformity and acquiescence to the unclean, unholy, and unrighteous world that surrounds us. His light and love will demand spiritual death to all but His Father’s will in our souls. Jesus opens up those chilly horizons beyond death, when we shall be stripped of achievements, hobbies, comforts, and possessions, and left with nothing to live upon but love of God and man. (Farrer: Lord I Believe; Cowley, p. 52) We are so conscientious about keeping what we have and securing more of it. And yet Christ says that, Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? (St. Luke ix. 24,25) Jesus asks us to see that our determination to put the happiness of our temporal lives before the demands of His love is crucifixion.
All sin tries to eliminate God from the world. It has its reward. (St. Matthew vi. 2) What we must see is that God’s Word will not be frustrated from running its course through suffering, into death, and beyond, to offer fallen man a chance to be saved. We may make Jesus Christ our enemy, but He forever remains true to Himself. He is always God’s love for all mankind. In fact, He is always God’s love in mankind, in the flesh of His Son. He is that love of God that understands, comprehends, and experiences fully all of man’s temptation to make an enemy out of God. Thus in the loving heart of Jesus Christ, Man’s alienation from God is endured perfectly in every conceivable spiritual state. His identification with our humanity demands that the effects of sin be felt purely in the whole of His being. We love God, because he first loved us (1 John 4. 19), and in this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4. 9) and not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4. 10) Within His heart then, fallen man’s experience of God will be embraced through suffering and yet that alienation will be overcome and brought to death. For in the end, anything and everything separating man from God- sadness, loneliness, frustration, confusion, uncertainty, fear, and even despair, will be brought into death. Out of their powerlessness Christ will lovingly sew the seeds of salvation and deliverance.
Let us listen to Cardinal Von Balthasar’s summary of the Crucifixion.
Jesus, the Crucified, endures our inner darkness and estrangement from God, and he does so in our place. It is all the more painful for Him, the less He has merited it. As we have already said, there is nothing familiar about it to Him: it is utterly alien and full of horror. Indeed, He suffers more deeply than an ordinary man is capable of suffering, even were he condemned and rejected by God, because only the incarnate Son knows who the Father really is and what it means to be deprived of Him, to have lost Him (to all appearances) forever. It is meaningless to call this suffering “hell”, for there is no hatred of God in Jesus, only a pain that is deeper and more timeless than the ordinary man could endure either in his lifetime or after His death. (Sermon for Good Friday)
Love takes on our darkness and estrangement from God. Love that is the Light and Life feels the pain more acutely than any man can because He has not earned or merited this condition. Because Love that is the Light and Life knows God perfectly, it will be utterly broken for all men who do not. He will lovingly endure the pain of a broken heart until He can overcome sin and open up to man the gates of everlasting life once again. For we must never forget that this is the light that has shined in darkness, and the darkness overcame it not. (St. John i. 5) Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: