March 25, 2016 – Meditation for Good Friday – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
A meditation on the seven last words of Christ from the cross.
The first word:
We have been reading the story of Christ’s Passion week after week during Lent. It is a hard story, a story full of cruelty and betrayal and suffering – as Joe says, it’s a story of man’s inhumanity to man. Judas betrays his friend and teacher for thirty silver coins. The other disciples are no better; they run away and leave Jesus to the mercy of the Temple guards and Roman soldiers. The priests and scribes hold their secret meeting by night so they can condemn Jesus without a single credible witness against him. The people, the multitudes that Jesus has fed and healed and taught, whose children he has blessed, they turn against him and cry for his execution. Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing, knowing that Jesus is innocent. The soldiers beat and mock and torture him, and drive nails into his living flesh. We are horrified, but we are not innocent, either, we whose sins Jesus had to bear in his body as he hung on the cross. No one is innocent, except for the man whose body hangs on the cross.
But hear the first word Jesus cries out from the cross. He is not there to accuse us. He is not there to condemn. It is love that brings him to Calvary. He is there to offer forgiveness to us all.
“Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.”
The second word:
The Roman soldiers hung Jesus in a place of shame and dishonor, criminals on his right hand and on his left. One of the criminals mocks Jesus, bitter in his own suffering. But the other man knows that the life he has led and the choices he has made have led to this moment. He knows that he deserves death. But he recognizes the goodness of the man that hangs beside him. And he asks Jesus, “Please, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It is too late for him to change his life. It is too late for him to make atonement in any way for the wrong he has done. It is too late for him to prove that he is sincere. But it is not too late – it is never too late – to ask for the mercy of Jesus. It is never to late for grace. And it was granted to him.
“I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.”
The third word:
It is sometimes easy to see the man on the cross as the Son of God, and to forget that he was also a man of flesh and blood, a man with family and friends. As he hung on the cross, Jesus looked down on his mother Mary, and on John, the young disciple he loved, standing at the foot of the cross, helpless in their grief and shock. And in his tender concern for them, he charged them to care for one another. In the midst of his suffering he remembered his loved ones.
The fourth word:
How can we ever fathom the immensity of the sin Jesus bore in his body? Think of the terrible events in the news on this one day. Think of the suffering and dysfunction of the people you know, and of your own failings and weaknesses and unkindness on this day alone. And then multiply that by every human being that has ever lived in every time in every place on the face of the earth. He took all that upon himself, nailing it to the cross in his own flesh, and knew in that moment the most terrible suffering of separation from God. He willingly endured the agony of separation so that all mankind might come again into the loving embrace of the Father.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The fifth word:
“I am thirsty.”
Part of the physical torment of the crucifixion was extreme thirst, from loss of blood, from sweat, from pain. Jesus cried out in human weakness and need, and the soldiers offered him sour wine, mixed with gall, to deaden his pain. But he refused it, choosing to fully endure the experience of death in order that he might be fully victorious over it.
But his thirst wasn’t only a physical need. On the sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” From the darkness of the crucifixion, Jesus cried out in longing for light, and the healing and restoration of his broken and rebellious creation.
“I am thirsty.”
The sixth word:
“It is finished!”
When Jesus cried out, he was near death. His suffering was nearly at an end. He was beaten and tortured with such cruelty, that Mark tell us Pilate was surprised when he heard that Jesus had already died. But the Greek word for “finished” doesn’t mean over and done with. It means complete, perfect. Jesus was not crying out in exhaustion and despair – he was crying out in victory. The work he had come into the world to accomplish was complete. By his death he had crushed the power of sin and death forever.
“It is finished!”
The seventh word:
Jesus’ final word was a cry of faith. Having finished, once and for all, his work of our salvation, opening the way for us into his glorious kingdom, he commended himself into the hands of God, with love and perfect trust.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
And having said this he breathed his last