On that first Good Friday, I imagine the Chief Priests and Pilate saying, “This ends today.” This movement ends today with his death. No more stories of miracles, no more distractions for the people, no more challenges to our authority. His movement dies with him.
While on Good Friday, Jesus certainly nears the end of his earthly journey, really his mission, it is nowhere near the end of the story as we know. His journey started 33 years earlier in a manger in Bethlehem. That journey we have followed from his birth, to the exile in Egypt, to a wedding miracle, to the Sermon on the Mount, and to the Last Supper. A journey that had only one ending in mind, an ending that was willed from the very beginning.
Jesus did the unimaginable, really the unthinkable… He willingly substituted himself in place of all of us for all of our sins. Instead of us suffering the punishment for our sins and being separated from God, he took the nails for all of humanity for all time. It was our sins that nailed him to the Cross because that’s what he willed. That was the plan all along.
Isaiah spoke of this when he prophesied about the suffering servant. “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted….The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.”
Who would do such a thing? Who could do such a thing?? Only our Savior. In one of the Gospel accounts of the Passion, it notes that at his death on the Cross, the veil in the sanctuary was torn in two. The veil that separated the people on the outside from God on the inside of the sanctuary. Only the priests could enter the sanctuary… until now. Jesus renders the veil unnecessary because we now have direct access to God the Father through him. For all time.
So, before we celebrate the glory of Easter though, we are here in the stark emptiness of Good Friday. And while we know how the story ends with the hope of Easter, Good Friday is a gift for us to pause with. You know, we all turn to Jesus with our own infirmities, with our own wounds and struggles which is exactly what we should do. He desires that relationship with us… but maybe Good Friday is an opportunity to do something different in this most important relationship. Maybe in this time of starkness, this quiet, this somberness… it is time to say thank you for taking that torture, that anguish, taking those nails… and for taking the unimaginable weight of our sins on his shoulders… to fulfill the Mission his Father sent him on.
Maybe by our pausing from our own needs, we can express our deep awe and appreciation for what he has done for us, for what he does for us every day. St Paul tells us, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all.” Sometimes we may take all that for granted, but Good Friday gives us this gift to pause and remember that he did this for us so that we might have salvation, he showed us how.
Our thank you though feels so very inadequate compared to what he did for us; it just doesn’t compare. It is important to pray that thank you anyway. Our words may not be able to express the depth of our thank you… but our love and worship can. Our love expresses what our words can’t and brings deep meaning and substance to our prayer. That makes our thank you complete and is the gift we can bring to him on Good Friday.