“Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.”¹
Christianity may not mean anything without the resurrection, but the resurrection is dependent upon the crucifixion. The crucifixion had to happen for the resurrection to happen. There would be no new life without death.
And when we gloss over the death to get to that new life, then it doesn’t mean as much. We need to stop here, at Good Friday, to sit and ponder.
It’s uncomfortable, but necessary.
So let’s sit with it for a few minutes, perhaps even an hour, as Jesus asked his disciples to sit with him – except they couldn’t without sleeping.
Let’s sit and ponder the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world – the whole world means YOU. And ME.
Jesus hung on that cross for YOU. Jesus hung on that cross for ME.
It’s not some quaint symbol of long ago. It’s here and now, RIGHT NOW. Jesus dies for YOU. Jesus dies for ME.
Through the cross God overturns all our definitions of power. There is no beating or chest thumping over who is more powerful. Jesus our king is our servant who would not defend himself. Jesus our king is power made perfect in weakness.
Not very American. Our rugged individualism and tough guy, pull ourselves up from our bootstraps mentality doesn’t like Jesus on the cross, but there he is.
There are too many Christians who view Jesus only from a triumphal point of view, like a general leading troops into battle. The reality is far different. To continue this example – Jesus is the general who went to the front line and told the enemy, “I give up. Kill me so my people can be free.”
THIS is why the crowds shouted “crucify him!” They saw Jesus as a loser. BARABBAS was their winner – the insurgent trying to bring down the government and restore Israel. But Jesus wasn’t coming to bring a new earthly government.
While his message of lifting up the poor, healing the sick, caring for those imprisoned, forgiving the sinner and loving the neighbor was political – it was also intensely, and more importantly, PERSONAL. For the political STARTS with the personal.
Jesus dies for YOU. Jesus dies for ME. Not for some political thought or philosophy or movement.
He dies because you and I screw up, ALL the time. He dies because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t do it ourselves – we’re too self-centered, too self-important, too blind to how our thoughts, words and deeds hurt others and ourselves.
Jesus dies because left to ourselves we WILL die – and he loves us too much to see that happen.
He dies because he sees how utterly impossible it is for us to truly love God and neighbor.
I know I can’t. When I’m honest I can admit that I love myself A LOT more than the person who makes me angry. I love myself A LOT more than someone convicted of selling drugs. I love myself A LOT more than the people who would blow themselves up because they HATE me.
I love myself A LOT more than God when God asks me to do without, so that the poor can have more. I love myself A LOT more than God when I’m too busy with my life to give God an hour of my Sunday morning. I love myself A LOT more than God when I can’t find time to pray.
We can’t do it, so Jesus dies. He dies for YOU. He dies for ME.
It’s a terrible thing to sit and ponder that WE – you and I – in the here and now – are responsible for his crucifixion. It didn’t just happen 2,000 years ago, it happens every second of every day that we sin and fall short of the glory of God. It’s a horrible thing to sit with. Just give us Easter please so we don’t have to think too hard.
But our worship tonight won’t let us do that. Our worship tonight forces us to acknowledge and confess our culpability. We are called to sit with it. We’re called to ponder it. We’re called to grieve over it.
Tonight we sit and ponder. We confront in ourselves, in the here and now, that Jesus dies for YOU and Me.
We wait with hope for God to bring us the light of Easter morning, but for now, we sit and…
“behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.”
¹”Behold the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world” is a verse chanted (or spoken) at the end of the liturgy as we adore/contemplate a cross that is placed before the congregation. This chant has been part of the traditional Good Friday liturgy since perhaps the 7th century.