Good Friday April 14, 2017
Isaiah 52, 13-53, 12 + Psalm 31 + Hebrews 4, 14-16, 5, 7-9 + John 18, 1- 19,42
St Joseph Church, Union City, OK
Three of the seven Last Words of Christ come from the Passion we have just proclaimed, and they give us more than enough to think about and pray about as we turn toward the Great Vigil of Easter. The Jesus of John’s Gospel is a man in charge. He is no innocent victim helpless, abused, and silent. He stands before Pilate his interrogator, and he asks the ultimate questions. He carries the cross “by himself” John says. And then, even from the cross he teaches, forms, and shapes us into the faithful people who become his church.
The community he has formed along the way has disintegrated, and here at the cross a new one is born. The mother of Jesus is given a son, and the loved disciple is given a mother. Remember that throughout the Gospels, Jesus always refers to her as “woman” which seems cold and distant. Yet there is behind this a message powerful and important. In the story of creation that we will tell again tomorrow, “woman” is called “Eve”, the mother of all the living. From the earliest Christian times, Mary is understood to be the new Eve. As she was the mother of the human family, the new Eve is the mother of the Christian family, the church. That disciple has no name because that disciple is us, a people given a new mother. Shortly after this takes place, John tells us that Jesus “handed over his spirit.” While we might like to think this simply means he died, it is really John’s version of Pentecost. It is Jesus inspiring, breathing his spirit into this church born at the cross.
This finishes the work of the Incarnation, not the life of Jesus Christ. It finishes the restoration of our goodness, and it restores our intended place in Paradise, the Kingdom of God. Literally “It is finished” means it is perfected. The love of God for us is now perfected in the complete self-emptying and brokenness of the one who completely embraced the whole human condition in helplessness and suffering. The bond between us and God is now perfected. It is finished.
Finally, in John’s Passion there is wine that must lead us back into the mystery of the Eucharist and more deeply into the truth and the mystery of a God who will break his own heart to comfort ours offering us the chance to do the same for each other. Twice before in John’s Gospel Jesus has spoken of thirsting. In the 4th chapter he is thirsty at a well in Samara. In the 7th chapter he is at Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, and on the last day of the festival he cries out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” It is God who speaks on the cross. It is God who thirsts for us just as much as we thirst for God. The idea of God needing or lacking something seems strange to us schooled in an image of God all-powerful; but at the same time, it is impossible to imagine a Creator without the created, a merciful God without someone to show mercy. Our thirst for God finds its completion in God’s thirst for us, a thirst satisfied at the Altar where we become one in the bread and wine, the body and blood.