April 10, 2020, A Meditation for Good Friday – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
To listen to this sermon, click here: Z0000188
When the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-39)
When I was a little girl, my father took my sister and me to New York City for the day. That day is remarkable in my memory because it was really the only time in our childhood that our father took the two of us on an outing like that. But it is also remarkable in my memory because the day of our excursion was also the day of a solar eclipse. My father was an extremely anxious man, and very good at communicating his anxiety with his children, so one of my most vivid memories of that otherwise glorious day was riding through the streets in a glass-roofed touring bus during the peak of the eclipse, staring intently down into my lap, in terror that I might accidentally look up at the sun and go blind.
I think of that experience as we move through this Holy Week, towards this day we call Good Friday, the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. We often approach this day with a sense of dread not so different from my childish fear of looking up into the darkened sun. How hard it is for us to turn our eyes toward the Cross. How impossible it seems each year, how terrifying, to raise our eyes, unflinching, to the suffering figure hanging over us.
I used to assume that people shrank from looking at the cross because of its sheer brutality. And make no mistake, crucifixion was intended by the Romans to be a particularly horrible means of execution, a powerful deterrent to rebels and outlaws by virtue of its cruelty. We modern people have no stomach for such violence. The sight of Jesus Christ in his death throes might be more than we are able to endure.
And yet, violence and cruelty, blood and pain, these are not horrors reserved for this one day of the year. We hear accounts of equal brutality every night on the seven o’clock news. We look into faces twisted in agony, faces of men and women, even children, on the front page of the daily paper. We consume images of blood and pain and death in measured doses and call it entertainment. If we imagine that we shy away from the Cross for fear we would be overcome by the horror of pain and blood, we are fooling ourselves. Most of us have been inoculated against such faintness of heart.
What is it then, really, that we fear to see? We look up at the tortured figure on the Cross, and we are struck blind – but not by the all-too-familiar sight of blood and pain and sorrow, as horrible as that was and is. No, what blinds us is that which was exposed on the Cross for all the world to see: the naked love of the Father, revealed in the battered and lifeless body of the Son. Our tongues fall mute. Our hearts are pierced. We are struck blind.
How wonderful and beyond our comprehension it is, that the suffering Servant on the Cross is the One who restores the sight of the blind.