(John 18:1 – 19:42) Jesus’ journey to the Cross was a long one. It began on the day He was born and culminated on Good Friday, the day He died. As He was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, our Lord suffered every kind of humiliation and indignity. He had been mocked and spat upon, and His scourged body was now naked, bloody, and broken. He bore not only the physical weight of the Cross, but also the sin of humankind and the sorrow, shame, regret, and pain caused by sin. For His entire life, Jesus lived to do one thing and one thing only: to fulfill the will of His Father. And as inconceivable as it may sound, this was the Father’s will for Him – “to crush him with pain” (Is 53:10).
Good Friday is one of the most solemn and moving celebrations in the Catholic liturgy. Today, we hear passages from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote about the “suffering servant” up to 700 hundred years before Christ was even born. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we are reminded that in Jesus, we have a “great high priest…who can sympathize with our weaknesses…yet without sinning” (Heb 4:14-15). Finally in the Gospel of John, we recall the events of Jesus’ final hours: His betrayal by Judas in the garden, His questioning before the high priest, His denial by Peter, and His sentencing from Pilate.
In each of these people, we can recognize a bit of ourselves – we see our own faults and failings and our fickle human nature. Despite all the evidence that Jesus is God, and knowing full well the atoning sacrifice that He has made on our behalf, we must come to grips with the fact that at times we also doubt, question, and accuse. We live our lives in ways that deny we even know Christ. We squander the priceless gift of salvation and settle for a pittance – worldly wealth or human respect and approval. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” the age-old hymn inquires. Yes, I was. We all were.
Yet even on this, the saddest of days, we aren’t left without hope! In spite of coming face to face with the ugliness of sin, we see the beauty in Christ’s sacrifice. With the words, “It is finished,” Jesus’ life and mission are brought to completion. But, unbelievably, this “end” represents a whole new beginning for the rest of us. God’s love for us has the last word, a love consummated on the wood of the Cross.
“We triumph over all these things through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
– Kelley Holy