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Good Friday 2013
Christ Church (Parish) Church
Fredericton, New Brunswick
March 29, 2013 12 Noon - 3:00 p.m.
The Reverend Anthony Kwaw
Rector of Fredericton
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine
Early in my ministry I was the assistant at St Paul’s Church in Saint John. The altar in that holy place was nestled in an apse with five vertical panels of stained glass. Each of the panels reflected the parallel stories of redemption found in the Scriptures. The upper portion of each panel was tall and narrow and stretched high into the vaulted ceiling. Each upper portion stood on a square of a stained glass image that prefigured the Gospel story resting upon it. The scene of Jesus on the cross, elegant and directing our eyes upward into the fanned ceiling stood on the Caduceus Moses erected in the desert during the Exodus.
Popular in Greek Mythology, the Caduceus is placed in the hand of Hermes. But the Torah account sees the serpent on a staff as a means of healing those stricken in the wilderness.
Numbers 21: 4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” 6 Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
The Caduceus in the wilderness – Hermes staff in the hands of Moses – the image prefigures the final conflict on another staff atop Golgotha where healing is secured in the vision of Jesus on the cross.
Such an image was clear in the mind of Jesus as he addressed his followers. John reminds us of what he said…
John 12: 32 “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
His thoughts took shape and his breath gave them life as his voice proclaimed the good news. But few had ears to hear. Time seemed to be running out and even those that gave instruction in Torah had difficulty in understanding what Jesus had to say. Nicodemus, curious but timid, sought him out by dark of night and queried Jesus.
John 3: 10 Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? … and Jesus went on … 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Our health and salvation – the medicine of the Gospels – is good news to the broken and infirm, of body, yes, but of mind and spirit as well. From the beginning Jesus was conscious of the anointing of the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan by John. Hope was realized in the ministry he exercised among those who were aware of their need of restoration and redemption. As he prayed in Gethsemane in the light of the Pascal Moon his High Priestly Prayer demonstrates his faithfulness to the end.
John 17:1 Jesus … looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
Jesus had completed his course, he had kept faith and in so doing he had given glory to the Father. Anything short of this would not have accomplished the task. He was now ready to enter his Sabbath’s Day Rest.
John 19: 30 “It is finished,” he said. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
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