(John 18: 1-19:42) My young son’s innocent question made me pause and think about how to explain the events of the day when seemingly only bad things happened – the day that Christ was arrested, beaten, humiliated, and ultimately crucified. How do you explain that God became man to save us from ourselves – that Jesus was born to die? That God exacted justice by means of injustice – that One who was completely innocent was made to suffer? That Christ died for all of us, but would have done it for any one of us. I can barely comprehend it myself. Good Friday brings us face to face with these and many other paradoxes of our faith. Truly, God’s ways are not our ways, and we never feel this more acutely than on Good Friday. Through Christ’s Crucifixion, in the piercing of His hands and feet, we begin to pierce the mysteries of God.
From today’s Gospel account, we see that though the ways of man are savagery and vengeance, the ways of God are love and mercy. Men, led by fear, deny everything; Christ, led by love, denies nothing. Man wants to wash his hands of any wrongdoing; God wants to wash us clean in the blood of His Son. On this, the darkest of days, Christ’s penetrating light begins to break forth, revealing both the futility of man’s power over life and the liberating power of God over death. The Cross assaults our senses and our sensibilities, and thus we are tempted to strip it of Christ’s broken body. But the Cross without Christ is devoid of meaning. Perhaps the Cross is so disturbing because the sins of each one of us put Him there. What’s more, though complicit in the evil it sought, we are the recipients of the good it wrought.
For our sake, God took a cruel instrument of torture and transformed it into a sign of profound love and mercy. Now, for all ages, Christians are known by the Cross. What does it mean to us? It is so much more than a symbol – it is our “standard” in every sense of the word. It is the flag that goes before us – our banner and rallying point. It is the principle that guides us – seeking to imitate Christ, we must also take up our cross. The Cross is the language of sacrificial love – dying to self for the sake of another. It is a support on which to grow – we draw strength from Christ’s promise of eternal life. The Cross is God’s currency, His exchange rate, the measurement of His love – Christ exchanged our curse for a blessing. So, today, let us venerate this most sacred of images that expresses not death, but life…and the most radical love the world has ever known.
– Kelley Holy