Friday, April 06, 2007

The Passion of Good Friday

Today, we call it Good Friday. It is likely that the name came from the earlier English name, "Godes Friday," meaning "God's Friday." It was a day roughly 1,980 years ago that many still struggle to understand.

On that day, a man convicted of blasphemy and treason was led with two others to a public execution, crucifixion on a wooden cross. He had been scourged, beaten raw till he was barely recognizable. He was forced to drag a heavy wooden cross beam up a hill, where there his hands were nailed to that beam, and his feet nailed to the supporting post. As the wooden cross of crucifixion was raised, the weight of his body strained against his pierced flesh and ligaments. The crowd looked on, most in amusement and fascination of this torturous spectacle that never failed to provide a show.

But for all the thousands that had gone to the cross before him, and for all that would follow, this crucifixion was different. Followers of the man had proclaimed him a healer, a great teacher, even, The Messiah. He had alternately demonstrated commanding knowledge of the Law of Moses, and a propensity to challenge the religious understanding of that law. He had been loved by most that heard him, but hated by many who ran the Temple. And so, on this day, he was convicted and hung from the cross of his death.

This, all were sure, was the end of His story. There he hung, wracked with pain and in the final throes of death. Oddly, the sky had darkened, even though it was a cloudless mid-day. For three more hours he had hung in the gloom of that afternoon, while the onlookers watched and waited for his final moments. Evil satisfaction raced through the hearts of his critics, who were now free of this troublesome impostor. Had he been who He claimed to be, this could never have happened. "Save yourself!" they called in derision. Ha, listen to him cry! "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" Finally, he admits the error of his ways! He surrenders to God's judgment!

And then, the mystery for the ages. The man, this man called Jesus, with his dying breath, called out for all to hear, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Another moment of perfect silence, and then, in a quiet, peaceful voice, these words: "It is finished."

Yes, yes, it is finished for you all right, thought the accusers. Go to your grave of the wicked, join your brethren in hell, where you belong, you accursed man of sorrow. Now you have been stricken by God, now you know his wrath!

But others wondered, what did he mean? What is finished? He didn't seem defeated in death, he seemed oddly at peace. "Surely," said the centurion at his feet, "this was a righteous man." And then, as if to accentuate the moment in history, the earth shook so violently that nearby tombs were opened, and buildings were damaged. Awe struck those with the courage to remain. The cry was taken up, "Surely, he was the Son of God!" And as they left the scene, as the body was carried away, the question lingered over the place...what had happened here today?

Many still doubt and mock. Many more just wonder. And yet, history has proven that this was, and is, God's Day. He, not Man, has prevailed. His children have carried on the Message of Christ, and God's days have been prolonged. His Way was established for all to follow, or to reject. This dark day, this Friday of God, God revealed Himself to us all.

4 comments:

  1. The funny thing is I can sympathize with the guilty parties more then most. The Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had been told that the thing they loved most was vanity. The Romans found keeping peace in Jerusalem an uncomfortable nuisance(for some reason when people draw the picture of "the soldiers tried to clear the narrow streets" I can't help thinking of Aaron Wolf(IDF)-mentioned in other posts. Even Jews find it a bother). While the Romans probably didn't have an overweening conscience like he did, I am sure they had similar feelings(I doubt they really took pleasure in whipping Jesus as the Movie indicates). Even the wine offered to Jesus is an indication; they were doing a job, the pleasures of sadism were for the arena and as far as they were concerned it mattered only that the victim be seen to suffer so they might as well offer what pity they could. I really doubt that they liked doing the thing(despite Me Gibson) even if they could stomach it better then modern soldiers. Pontius Pilate seems suspiciously like an ordinary bureaucrat who runs like a machine because that is normally good enough to keep a reasonably good order-but is lost in unforseen circumstance. And of course the mob was just a mob, doing what mobs do. In other words the whole thing seems frightfully human. It does not derive from unusual evil but from what humans normally are.

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  2. he funny thing is I can sympathize with the guilty parties more then most. The Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had been told that the thing they loved most was vanity. The Romans found keeping peace in Jerusalem an uncomfortable nuisance(for some reason when people draw the picture of "the soldiers tried to clear the narrow streets" I can't help thinking of Aaron Wolf(IDF)-mentioned in other posts. Even Jews find it a bother). While the Romans probably didn't have an overweening conscience like he did, I am sure they had similar feelings(I doubt they really took pleasure in whipping Jesus as the Movie indicates). Even the wine offered to Jesus is an indication; they were doing a job, the pleasures of sadism were for the arena and as far as they were concerned it mattered only that the victim be seen to suffer so they might as well offer what pity they could. I really doubt that they liked doing the thing(despite Me Gibson) even if they could stomach it better then modern soldiers. Pontius Pilate seems suspiciously like an ordinary bureaucrat who runs like a machine because that is normally good enough to keep a reasonably good order-but is lost in unforseen circumstance. And of course the mob was just a mob, doing what mobs do. In other words the whole thing seems frightfully human. It does not derive from unusual evil but from what humans normally are.

    Fri Apr 06, 12:31:00 PM EST

    Oh I forgot-Sir Jason

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  3. For the matter of that if the Scribes and Pharisees and Teachers of the Law had been right-if Jesus had been heretic, deliberatly leading the Faithful away with lies then he would have deserved it. That is something we are habitually uninclined to think of. Because we know that the State is incompetant to judge such things, that most people come by their error more or less honestly(or at least through faults to subtle to judge)and that we would do horrible things to each other if we allowed such power to the State, we assume that it follows that it would be necessarily unjust to do so. In fact a better formulation would be that the chances of injustice are to great to use force in such matters. But if someone was knowingly deceiving people about such matters he would in principal deserve very harsh punishment. We just know we are incapable of judgeing that.
    This is a thing to remember. Jesus had a right to say the things He did to the Pharisees. We should be merciful-because it really could have been us. As C.S. Lewis says somewhere, "We must not be Phariseeical even to the Pharisees."

    Sir Jason

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  4. "Good Friday 2007

    By Richard John Neuhaus
    Friday, April 6, 2007, 6:41 AM

    “Through Mary he received his humanity, and in receiving his humanity received humanity itself. Which is to say, through Mary he received us. In response to the angel’s strange announcement, Mary said yes. But only God knew that it would end up here at Golgotha, that it had to end up here. For here, in darkness and in death, were to be found the prodigal children who had said no, the prodigal children whom Jesus came to take home to the Father.

    The liturgy of Good Friday is coming to an end now. A final prayer replaces the usual benediction:

    Lord,
    send down your abundant blessing
    upon your people who have devoutly recalled
    the death of your Son
    in the sure hope of the resurrection.
    Grant them pardon, bring them comfort.
    May their faith grow stronger
    and their eternal salvation be assured.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord.

    Let all the people say Amen. The church is dark now. The altar is stripped and bare. Some are getting up and leaving in silence. Others remain kneeling, looking into the darkness. Holy Saturday is ahead, the most quiet day of the year. The silence of that silent night, holy night, the night when God was born was broken by the sounds of a baby, a mother’s words of comfort and angels in concert. Holy Saturday, by contrast, is the sound of prefect silence. Yesterday’s mockery, the good thief’s prayer, the cry of dereliction—all that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.

    Some say that on Holy Saturday Jesus went to hell in triumph, to free the souls long imprisoned there. Others say he descended into a death deeper than death, to embrace in his love even the damned. We do not know. Scripture, tradition and pious writings provide hints and speculations, but about this most silent day it is perhaps best to observe the silence. One day I expect he will tell us all about it. When we are able to understand what we cannot now even understand why we cannot understand. Meanwhile, if we keep very still, there steals upon the silence a song of Easter that was always there. On the long mourners’ bench of the eternal pity, we raise our heads, blink away our tears and exchange looks that dare to question, ‘Could it be?’ But of course. That is what it was about. That is what it is all about. O felix culpa!

    O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
    which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

    To prodigal children lost in a distant land, to disciples who forsook him and fled, to a thief who believed or maybe took pity and pretended to believe, to those who did not know that what they did they did to God, to the whole bedraggled company of humankind he had abandoned heaven to join, he says: ‘Come. Everything is ready now. In your fears and your laughter, in your friendships and farewells, in your loves and losses, in what you have been able to do and in what you know you will never get done, come, follow me. We are going home to the waiting Father.’ ”

    —from Death on a Friday Afternoon"


    Sir Jason

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