Christ is alone now. He has forgiven His enemies, He has welcomed a new friend into the journey of death, which His new family begins to experience as new life. Now He is alone, at the primordial point of experiencing the meaning of sin, offering himself to the Father. Jesus is the true life of man. When He dies, He feels the suffering and pain, as only the whole and complete, perfect and unblemished Word of God and forgiveness of sins can. The greater the Life, the greater the feeling of its loss. We cannot know what Christ felt, in the loss of His new human life. The Sinless One is punished as a sinner. Can we be begin to imagine the pain? Jesus is pure human life rejected by so many and now near death.
But He wills to be cut down in order that He may jump up high. His desire has been to do nothing less than the will of God made flesh. The will of God in human flesh involves death, death not only to sin but to any creature other than God.
The Son sees his Father approaching. The spiritual reality of God’s nearness is now known and experienced. Jesus says I thirst. (St. John xix. 28) He thirsts not for earthly drink. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. (St. John xix. 28) They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalm lxix. 22) But Jesus insists that Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (St. Matthew iv. 4) He thirsts for the righteousness of God. Like as the hart desireth the water brooks, so longeth my soul after thee O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea even for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God? (Psalm 42. 1,2) Christ Jesus desires nothing less than that spiritual water mingled with the blood and the Spirit that will yield new life. The things of the earth have passed away. The forgiven sons and daughters of the earth, the reconciled criminal and the new family that He has taken with Him and into the depths of sin’s meaning will now find new birth, but only through the forgiveness of sins that He is. Man was created in God’s image and likeness. The discarded image must be made new.
Paul Claudel puts it nicely: A drop of water: the only thing in the world that costs nothing, a thing that one would not refuse to a wounded animal, a sick dog, humanity refuses to its maker and Savior. (I believe in God) But neither God nor Christ refuses it to us. We can have it through Christ, who today knows that we need it if we are to be saved. We will learn to receive it ourselves, and then give a cup of this cold water to others in His Name. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me…And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.(St. Matthew x. 42)
Our journey on this Good Friday involves coming to the knowledge of Christ and to the knowledge of ourselves. Our eyes are beginning to be opened to the light that creates new life. In Christ we find God’s deepest desire for us. I thirst. Christ says. We thirst and begin to drink in death. In Christ we find not only the thirst of One Man for His Maker, but the thirst of God’s Son for the salvation of us all. Our eyes are opened to Christ’s love for us even as He is suffering and dying. He never forgets us. We are an ongoing concern in the heart of Christ Jesus. Jesus is the light that loves and makes new life. Love has many dimensions. It is passion; He is the Passion of God made flesh, God’s Passion for our salvation. He will become our Passion for God rediscovered and our Passion for others’ salvation. He is the Forgiveness of Sins made flesh, God’s forgiveness of our sins, and will become that liberating power that moves us to forgive all others. He is Yearning made flesh, God’s yearning for our friendship and company. He will become our yearning for Him and then for others discovery of His friendship. He is about to die and He remembers us. His thirst for God is His thirst for Man.
Jesus is the Love of God and the Love of Man in a simultaneous unity of unselfed in-othering. Think about it. He is Love as in-othering; He lives in and for the other, first God and then every other man. He is Love as unselfed. He has emptied Himself of Himself that He might escort new sons and daughters into the Father’s presence, in His name, as members of His new Body that He is forming. He is the Love of God and the Love of Man coming together. As for Himself, He doesn’t much care. The point, His point, the labor and work of His life, is to reconcile Man to God and Man to Man. His role is to arrange the meeting, to enable the encounter. Is He essential? Absolutely. But the minute He is self-consciously significant, the work and labor collapses. The selfless Saviour is the spiritual Person who alone conveys God to man and returns man to God.
It is finished. (St. John xix. 30) Today we come to know that the mission of Christ is finished and accomplished. We realize also that we ourselves are finished. The truth is naked before our very eyes. What is finished? Our pride is finished. Our sin is finished. The end of sin is death. Our sin has brought about the death of Christ. But even in this death, the death of Christ, man’s self-willed alienation from God is revealed as what has no power and no future. It is finished. Life in isolation and alienation from God is illusorily satisfying, temporarily pleasing, and wholly incomplete. Life in isolation from God is death. This life is finished. In the death of Christ what is finished is the illusion that we have any power, that we have any meaning apart from the wisdom and love of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even death. Not even our Crucifixion of Christ, the Word of God in Man. Nothing can separate us from God at all. For God is near to us. We have been carried into Christ’s death and are about to enter into His New Life. Our sin is finished. Death is about to be conquered and finished.
It is finished. What this means is that Christ Jesus has gone where we could not go. Christ Jesus has endured what we could never endure. He has taken on and felt the curse of His own judgment, the punishment of His own law, the justice of His measuring. He is, in a word, consistent with Himself. He does not subject his own creatures to anything that He Himself cannot endure. Do not do unto others anything that you would not have them do unto you. (St. Luke vi. 31) He meant and He lived it. This does not make it any the less painful, horrifying, and sad. But at the end of the day, it shows us that He is the center of all reality- the life, light, and love that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.(1 Cor xiii.7), in order to make new life.
Life is an ongoing effort and labor to place our spirits into the hands of the living God. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit. Nothing need escape the Love of God. And God’s Love for man, which is Jesus Christ Himself, is reconciled to it. To love is to suffer, old Bishop Morse used to say. In Christ’s crucifixion we find the pathway to love. Father into thy hands I commend my spirit. So, we believe that Jesus’ final Ascent to the Father is an ascent of the whole Person, body and soul, suffering and pain, with joy and gladness. He intends what we should become members of His Body, here on earth, with Him as our Head. He promises us that we should experience as much struggle, pain, toil, and suffering as He did. Within the Body there will be an extension of His Crucifixion, with the crucifixion of many members on the way to Resurrection. Christ establishes the Pattern for Redemption. Let us close with some words taken from Hans Urs Von Balthasar:
At the very periphery of this thanksgiving to God, it is legitimate to ask that, if God permits it, we may help the Lord to bear a tiny particle of the suffering of the Cross, of his inner anxiety and darkness, if it will contribute to reconciling the world with God. Jesus himself says that it is possible to help him bear it when he challenges us to take up our cross daily. Paul says the same in affirming that he suffers that portion of the Cross that Christ has reserved for him and for other Christians. When life is hard and apparently hopeless, we can be confident that this darkness of ours can be taken up into the great darkness of redemption through which the light of Easter dawns. And when what is required of us seems too burdensome, when the pains become unbearable and the fate we are asked to accept seems simply meaningless—then we have come very close to the man nailed on the Cross at the Place of the Skull, for he has already undergone this on our behalf and, moreover, in unimaginable intensity. When surrounded by apparent meaninglessness, therefore, we cannot ask to be given a calming sense of meaning; all we can do is wait and endure, quite still, like the Crucified, not seeing anything, facing the dark abyss of death. Beyond this abyss there waits for us something that, at present, we cannot see (nor can we even manage to regard it as true), namely, a further abyss of light in which all the world’s pain is treasured and cherished in the ever-open heart of God. Then we shall be allowed, like the Apostle Thomas, to put our hand into this gaping wound; feeling it, we shall realize in a very bodily way that God’s love transcends all human senses, and with the disciple we shall pray: “My Lord and my God.”
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: