Sermon: Good Friday

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A man dreamed of walking through a vast desolate area. In the distant, near the horizon, he saw a cross and immediately altered his course to go see this site. The closer he got, the more detail came into focus and soon he realized that Christ was on the Cross. He knew that these horrible events had happened two millennia before, but the closer he came the more he understood that it was also happening today. A line from the poem, The Dream of the Rude, came to mind:

I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the ruler’s corpse with clouds,
His shining beauty; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. All creation wept,
Bewailed the king’s death; Christ was on the cross.

When he arrived at the cross, he was miraculously lifted up so that he was face-to-face with the Savior. The man thought the King was dead, but just then Jesus opened his eyes. He was alive! There was still time the man thought, still time to pull him from the hatred of this tree.

He spoke to the Savior and asked him what he should do, but Jesus was silent. In sheer desperation, with one hand, the man reached over and grabbed the nail that pierced the left hand of Jesus, and with the other he held the wrist of Jesus, and he pulled.

At first the nail would not budge, but then he felt it give a little. He knew he could get it, so with all his effort he pulled again and the nail came free. The Savior grimaced with fresh pain, but still did not speak.

Odd, thought the man, even though the nail had been removed from the Jesus’ hand, it was still firmly fixed to the cross and it was then that the man realized he was still holding Jesus’ wrist, holding it to the rough wood, yet, no matter how desperately he wanted to, he could not let go. He could not let Jesus off the cross. If the nail wasn’t going to hold him to the cross to die, then the man was. He wept, he screamed at himself, he pleaded with the Savior to help him, but nothing. He held Jesus firmly fixed to the wood of the cross.

It was then that he noticed the others. A great crowd had gathered around the cross and all who had come had had the same idea as the man. Free Jesus from this instrument of death, yet, like the man, as soon as the nails were pulled they held Jesus in place with their hands. The woman at the foot of the cross wept bitter tears on the feet of Jesus as she embraced Jesus’ legs and the cross together, not daring to let him down. Another man at Jesus’ other arm had his mouth open in a silent scream to heaven and a small child sat on one of the arms of the cross to make sure the crown did not slip off the King’s head, all the while crying to Him, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” They all were, and they were helpless to stop themselves, until the Savior spoke, “It is finished” and breathed his last. Knowing for certain that he was dead, the crowd gently, ever so gently, lowered the body of the Savior to the ground and then, silently, they turned and walked away.

Soon, the man found himself alone with the body of Jesus. He wondered, did we do this because we wanted him dead or did we do this because we knew that it was the only way we could be saved? He wondered if they were being selfish, were they sinning in holding Jesus to the Cross so that they could be saved. He wondered if we were all thinking as Caiaphas had, that it was better for one to die than all of us.

Paul writes to the Romans, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”

While we were still sinners, while we held him to the Cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” and he died. He died for the enemies of God – for us – because he loved us so much, and in dying, not only were we saved from the wrath of God, but we were also transfigured, no longer God’s enemies, but His son’s and daughters. At that, Jesus declares, “It is finished.”

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