Good Friday 2014
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
April 18, 2014 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Jesus’ beginning was not unlike his ending.
He found himself in a wilderness following his baptism by John. He was led there by the Holy Spirit. It was there that he endured deprivations and it was there that he encountered temptations.
He suffered the loneliness of the wilderness for a great length of time. And for the duration he was alone.
From the heights of Golgotha Jesus found himself alone again. His strength was ebbing away and for lack of food and water and rest his stamina was sorely taxed. Here loneliness met him again. Jesus found his godforsakenness palpable. The emptiness that engulfed him pressed him in on every side.
Beyond the measure of his forty days of trial in the wilderness, these forty hours following his arrest in the Garden magnified his isolation and his vulnerability. The temptations here are pushed aside as Jesus clenches his fist around the head of a nail and asks of God, “Why have you forsaken me?”
The question is engaging. It lacks ambiguity. It directly draws the subject and the object together and qualifies itself with an accusation. This is an I – Thou moment. Jesus is closer to our human condition perhaps now more than at any other time in his ministry. His Father’s business is no longer at arm’s length and it is not theoretical or objective.
Seiger Köder depicts the Centurion wielding a hammer and as it drives a nail pinning Jesus’ hand to the wooden cross beam. Jesus cannot help but wonder, “Why?” Jeering voices of on-lookers mock him as he lies prone and once again Jesus cannot help but ask, “Why?” The full sun of day turned dark, as if it turned its back on the proceedings at hand and Jesus question persists: “Why?” And as the sharp report of the metal striking metal strikes the ears of those witnessing the moment Jesus’ enduring question, “Why?” is hidden in their gasps.
Jesus’ question is not one in search of a cognitive answer. It rises up from the depths of his being and hovers in the air. It is in that sense that Jesus comes closer to our humanity than perhaps at any time. Jesus participates in the loneliness and the pain and the sorrow and the dreadful fear of the moment that places great demands on him. It is more than he can bear. It is more than he can comprehend. Its justification and its purpose are lost to him.
“Why – have you forsaken me?”
More acute than when he was in the desert alone for forty days, these forty hours advance with a rapidity that is greater than the haste known to Moses and the Israelites as they stood to ingest the roasted lamb and the unleavened bread. They were going to escape into the wilderness. But here the wilderness is gained and Jesus – the second Moses – finds himself alone. No lamb – save for the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. No bread – save for the Bread which has come down from heaven.
We are allowed to see Jesus in a fresh way, not as a hero and not as one who rises above our station. Jesus knows our isolation and our fear and his strength, his power – the power of God – begins to find new meaning for us and hearten us. Jesus enters our circumstances, as varied as they are, and in those moments of engagement his gaze catches ours and he beholds us where we are… with him.
The day compresses his final words in such a way that we find ourselves less alone, because of him. As forsaken as we feel ourselves to be, we know that Paradise itself is gained in the knowledge of his accompanying presence.
No answer from the Father penetrating the darkness of Golgotha would have satisfied Jesus. No answer would have been overheard by either a Centurion or the curious bystander. No answer would have provided the foundation for a rational justification warranting such suffering as Jesus endured. No answer would have provided the theological basis satisfactory to the Chief Priest and Rabbis that lurked in the shadows. And no answer would satisfy us.
The darkness, after all, may have only been that experienced by Jesus. His understanding and comprehension dimmed, it was he who was engulfed in darkness. That darkness can still be found: in a doctor’s office… in the midst of a crowd… in a sleepless bedroom… where worry and fear and doubt inflict us with a paralysis and the darkness of depression.
Jesus’ teaching continues on Golgotha and finds application long after parables and sermons are uttered and soon forgotten. His example speaks to our lot in life and expresses a wisdom – a Sophia of God we can embrace.
After his forty days in the wilderness where he was successful in not falling prey to Satan’s wiles Jesus began a ministry. He invited men to follow him. He spoke with an authority that was fresh and one that was new to Andrew and his brother, Peter as well as to the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Matthew also heard it and so did others.
But after his forty hours following his arrest and trial he achieved a victory that went beyond himself and wrought Redemption on an anvil placed squarely on Golgotha. He continues to invite men to follow him, and women too. He continues to speak with an authority that remains fresh and one that has currency for us today.
“Why?” Perhaps the wisdom – the Sophia of God captures it best in inviting us to join him… to be sent, as he was sent. The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon us, because the LORD has anointed us; he has sent us to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.
Teacher, drawing out our best, magnifies what we invest.
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 Folly of God