Good Friday, 3rd Hour
April 2, 2010
Let us pray. God of our living and dying, this global village does not seem any closer to being your reign than it was two thousand years ago. Though you see the evils of genocide and racism, sexism and poverty, they often are invisible to us because we are blinded by our own privileges. Open our eyes. We believe that you raise us all to new life; yet our fears of dying frequently blind us to the cycles of living. We often feel angry or abandoned when a loved one precedes us to eternity. Comfort us and help us experience, again, the wonder of your love. In what we think and in what we do, empower us to manifest the grace of Jesus. Amen.
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
Good Friday comes every year with its unique burden of grief. We know the story; we have heard it, felt it, and wept over it. But every year it comes to us with renewed regret and sorrow, even though, for those of us who profess the Christian faith, the outcome of the story does not remain in tragedy but emerges in triumph. Yet the pain of it never diminishes. When we hear the words of John, so simple and so utterly heartbreaking, we allow our hearts to be wounded anew.
What affects us most deeply, both the listener and participant in this drama, is the incredible injustice of it all – the actions that bring the prophecy of Isaiah to its startling reality: the one who lived in total obedience to God is being made an object of scorn. The one who loved so thoroughly and so completely is being left alone, spat upon, and rejected – a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Despite all the affliction and suffering Jesus, willingly, without resistance, “poured out himself to death”; he who was without sin “was numbered with transgressors,” as it says in Isaiah, “Bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
We know that all this came to pass. Sometimes we watch, and like many passersby on the Via Dolorosa, we feel only curiosity: in a violent world like ours, meeting death without responding in revenge is so odd that it is incomprehensible to us. At other times we feel the terrible injustice of that particular Friday and we are angry. But anger is not allowed: Jesus tells the angry Peter, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Something else is happening here, as alien to our world as it was to the Roman and Hebrew authorities in the first century. We still don’t, won’t or cannot comprehend this kind of total obedience to the divine will. We don’t understand what he is telling Pilate any more than that unfortunate procurator understood him.
Pilate himself is trying to buy time. Filled with fear of what the emperor would say if he made another serious mistake with the Jews (for Pilate had a long history of bad mistakes and poor judgment when it came to the religiosity of the Jews), he is trying to find a way out of this dilemma so he will not be demoted by Tiberius once again. Fascinated by this silent prisoner who has the bearing of a king because of his innate peace and authority, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” Jesus had spent his short years of ministry proclaiming a new kingdom, something so removed from Pilate’s understanding of power that Jesus does not really answer that question; he knows that Pilate will not understand. But he gives to Pilate, and to all of us, something much more important to think about. He tells him:
“I came to testify to the truth,” he declares, and adds something so utterly surprising that if Pilate and all the people around that drama had listened, they might have died in hope, when their time came. Jesus adds, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Can you imagine what it means to belong to the truth? It implies a state of being. Truth is no longer an abstract concept but a concrete reality. The only way for us to understand truth, as used by Jesus here, is to grasp that Truth is God. It is in the nature of God, it emanates from God, and we can belong to it. When we belong to Truth, we belong to God, and we are able to hear Jesus’ voice.
What an incredibly wonderful and comforting statement this is. Not just for us who have heard the good news, who have believed in God as revealed in Jesus, but also for the whole world – for all who seek the truth, as our Book of Common Prayer says. Once again on this Good Friday we can feel the universal embrace of God’s love, we can hear the universal call to all whom God has created. He who poured out himself to death for us assures us on this spring Friday afternoon that all who belong to the Truth hear his voice. Instead of separating us, Jesus, in his death, brings us together.
May we wait for resurrection in the same spirit of love. After weeping bitterly with Peter for all that is past, let us now wait with the women at the tomb, ready to serve the one who poured out himself for us. Amen.