Today, Good Friday, we commemorate our Savior’s death on the cross at Calvary. We shroud our crucifixes, leave our altars bare, empty our holy water fonts, fast, and mourn the loss of Jesus. Our faith tells us that this day is a day like no other. Our actions reflect this knowledge. Our hearts ache at the thought of Jesus being scourged, crowned with thorns, and forced to carry his heavy cross through the streets until he came to stop at Golgotha. We close our eyes and force the pain away as we envision our Lord being nailed to his cross and lifted into place where he would await his death. We cry in agony with Jesus as he breathes his last breath and commends his spirit to God. Today is a day of pain, of sorrow, of mourning. It is a day like no other.
On Palm Sunday we read of Christ’s grand entrance into the city, seated on a donkey, palms extended to him like royalty. Days later that joy would be turned to anger, deceit, and vengeance. What would go so wrong in those few days to bring about our Lord’s death?
We can look historically at all that went on during those days that led up to Jesus’ death. We can look at the Sanhedrin, we can look at those who doubted and hated Jesus, as well as we can look at Judas and his ultimate betrayal and kiss of death. Where we often don’t look though, is within ourselves. How did we bring about Christ’s death?
On Palm Sunday as we read about Christ’s trial before Pilate we are encouraged to respond during the Gospel reading. Each part of the Gospel is read by a participant. In our parish Jesus was read by our Priest, Peter was read by our deacon, several men stepped up to fill in the parts of the Judas, the high priests and Pontius Pilate. The congregation was the crowd gathered at Jesus’ trial. As the Gospel reading was read we came to our part where Pilate asks the crowd what he should do with Jesus, whom he has found no fault, and the crowd shouts, “Crucify him!” With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I am unable to read these lines. I am unable to voice those words, “crucify him”. Even though I am unable to say the words I know that my life and my sins have indeed crucified my Savior.
Christ’s death was not just about what was happening during the time he lived. It was not just the priests who were jealous of him, it was not just the refusal to see the miracle of God made man, nor was it the betrayal of Jesus for 30 silver pieces. It was a reflection of our lives, of our sins, of our refusal to live as God as calls us to live. It was God sending his only Son to save us before we were even born, to open the gates of Heaven so that we have the hope of everlasting life. Christ’s death encompassed more than his own era, it was a result of the sins of those who lived before him, those who lived with him and those of us who have lived after him.
We must understand that we are responsible for Christ on the cross. We are responsible for the pain that each blow caused our Lord, of the agony that he felt as the nails tore through his hands and feet. We must understand that our sins, our refusal to live as we are called, have placed Christ beaten and bleeding before us, dying. It was not just those who lived in the same time that Christ lived but it is us, living now, that are also responsible for all that our Lord suffered.
Today is a day like no other. We see our sins and our failings so clearly. We see how we may not have shouted “crucify him!” with our voices but our actions and inactions have said those very words. We see what Christ had to give in order for us to be saved. While we see this sadness and sorrow, we also catch a glimpse of what is to come. We see in Christ’s suffering and death the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation. To take advantage of this gift we must place our failings, our sins, our shortcomings, our fears, and our sorrows upon the cross with Jesus. We must turn our back on the sins that nailed our Lord’s hands and feet so securely to the cross and we must vow to turn our lives and hearts back to God. Today we must die on the cross with Christ. To do anything less is to waste the gift that Christ has given us.
On this day we are surrounded by sadness. We have lost our beloved Jesus. We have lost ourselves. We have seen the effects of our sins and the damage they have done. However, today, on Good Friday, we have hope. Because of the great sacrifice on the cross we know that we have the gift of everlasting life awaiting us. We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves though and join Christ on the cross in order to receive it. I ask you, are you willing to suffer with Christ? Are you willing to accept the gift of salvation that Jesus secured for you? Are you willing to turn your back on sin and live your life for God?
Our actions often shout “crucify him!”, but now is the time to change that. Today, on this day of sorrow, let us ask God for forgiveness, place our lives in His hands, share the space on the cross, and accept His gift of everlasting life. Let us see the “Good” in Good Friday. Let us know that we are so loved that God would send His only Son to suffer in such a way that we could be given the hope for life forever with our precious Savior. We need to stop shouting “crucify him!” and we need to live our lives in a manner that glorifies Christ and that honors his sacrifice for us.
Today is a day like no other… today we pick up our crosses and walk side by side with Christ.