Good Friday

From Deacon Mark Miller’s Desk

Good Friday.  One of only two days the Church asks us to fast and abstain.  It continues the liturgy we began yesterday [Holy Thursday]. This same liturgy continues with the Easter Vigil Mass.  It’s certainly not a day for joy and celebration. Our Savior suffers terribly and dies today.  He endures the torture of crucifixion willingly because of his great love for us. 

We read the passion today from John’s Gospel. All four gospels agree that Christ carries his cross, but only John has Christ do so without help.  The crossbeam he carried was around six-foot-long and weighed somewhere between 75 and 115 pounds.  The scourging inflicted on him just hours before left the skin on his shoulders and back ripped open. Each step brought more agonizing pain than the last. For six thousand steps over 2000 yards, he bore the weight of that beam. Six thousand steps on a cobblestone street that wound upward to his crucifixion site.

Imagine walking those 2000 yards, hungry, thirsty, in excruciating pain, and knowing it will get worse. People line both sides of the path -- angry, shouting, insulting. Some of these same people greeted him just four days ago with a king’s welcome. Two thousand yards.  One point three miles. This image displays that distance, with our parish at the center. Imagine carrying a wooden railroad tie from one side of the circle to the other.

2000 feet master InPixio

In today’s Gospel, Jesus will fall under the weight of that crossbeam not once, but three times.  Each fall weakens him further.  There is no one to help him stand again.  His knees were bloodied as, but he is unwilling to surrender to the pain and abuse.  Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus sets the stage for these actions when he said, “… I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” [10:17-18].  

We know what comes next, as does Jesus.  Crucifixions were common enough that everyone knew what was involved.  Yet, even that knowledge wouldn’t force Christ to abandon us.  He would carry His cross. He would fall and then rise again because of His love for us.  He would endure the absolute agony of being nailed to his cross. He willingly accepted the pain and humiliation of his crucifixion.

For six hours, he struggled to get a breath.  Unable to either inhale nor exhale completely, his lungs slowly filled with fluid. At 3 pm that Friday so long ago, Jesus finally laid his life down for us with the words “It is finished.”  With those words, he surrendered his spirit.

Good Friday makes clear what Jesus endured for our sake. We cannot forget it is our sin that placed him on that cross, and it’s through his death that we are saved.  The prophet Isaiah made clear our responsibility for the events of this day when he wrote, “Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.” [53: 4-6].

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