Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

Fr. Dale Matson

Have you ever posed this question to yourself? “What is so good about Good Friday?”  I think the key to providing an answer lies in a simple statement from Genesis by Joseph to his brothers. “What you intended for evil God intended for good.” (Genesis 15:20) In fact, the situation was similar. Joseph’s brothers betrayed him simply because they were jealous of him. They were jealous because he enjoyed a special relationship with his father. They turned him over to the enemy.  This is the same jealousy we see toward Jesus. He had a special relationship to His father. In fact Jesus claimed to be God. In John Chapter 8 Jesus stated, “Before Abraham was I am.” (Verse 58) On hearing this, the crowd picked up stones to stone Him knowing that He was claiming to be God. This was the capital crime of blasphemy.

There is another issue that continued to crop up. When Jesus healed people, the Pharisees thought He was using demonic power. They of course, like unspiritual religious people of any age have no power, cannot do mighty works, and cannot discern good from evil. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the word got back to the Pharisees and they decided to kill Him. Here the words of Jesus are confirmed. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead!” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

 “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation. You know what they are admitting here. They were saying “We don’t want the Messiah to come. If the people recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Romans will destroy us. The leaders didn’t want to be freed from their captivity to the Romans, they wanted the status quo.  “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish. “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

How convinced were the Pharisees that Jesus must die? They were willing to use the courts of the hated Roman captors. They could provide witnesses to the statements that Jesus claimed to have the power to forgive sins that He was the son of God and He claimed to be God Himself. The problem was they had no authority over him. No one had authority over Him unless He allowed it. They were comfortable in their captivity. Their charges of blasphemy would not hold in a civilian trial so they charged that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. This was heresy and a chargeable offensive in Roman law since there could be no King but Caesar. That is why Pilate had the sign on His cross inscribed with the phrase “King of the Jews”. Here Pilate, like the chief Pharisee Ananias was also prophetic.

The Pharisees were willing to see a fellow Israelite die for an offense that all of them were guilty of. None of them wanted Caesar as their king but forced the hand of Pilate to accomplish their ends. In a sense, in pledging their allegiance to Caesar, they along with Judas, made a deal with the devil.

As I prepared for this, I needed to answer questions that had come up in my mind every Lenten season. None of this makes sense to me and never has. How could a perfect man be betrayed by foe and friend alike? It is a tragedy of cosmic proportions. Why such suffering, humiliation and total loss of dignity? How was Jesus able to wash the feet of the man He knew would betray Him? This makes all of slights I have suffered at the hands of others seem so petty by comparison.  How could this perfect storm of tragedy happen? It could only happen if it were orchestrated by God. The plan of redemption following the fall of man was laid out in Genesis. Jesus Christ the Messiah of the Jews and savior of Mankind was embedded throughout Scripture and is the living incarnate Word of God.

I think of all those who had a hand in the betrayal of Jesus. There were the Pharisees like Caiaphas, Judas and Pontius Pilot. They were responsible for this betrayal, this injustice. If it weren’t for them, the devil’s agents, Jesus would not have been crucified. Actually, it really didn’t matter who the participants in the plot were. The issue was never His guilt. The issue was our guilt and we are the reason He is on the cross. This is an anamnesis, a remembering in sacred time of those events.

For me, the season of Lent is long and arduous. It is an annual cyclical emotional descent to the foot of the cross and I look on whom we have pierced.  This year I have come to a better understanding about my own seemingly inexplicable sadness that is not characteristic of me. It is a kind of survivor guilt. He died so that I could live.  It is not easy to entertain the idea that I feel so separate from Christ and so vulnerable during this time. Forgive us for we knew not what we were doing. Do you love Me son? Yes Lord, You know that I do.
What is good about Good Friday? What is good about the crucifixion of a perfect and innocent man? Men had intended it for evil but God had intended it for good. Christ took the sins of all humankind to the cross with Him. His death was the necessary atoning sacrifice for the redemption of all people. By His death, He has freed those who believe in Him from sin, death and the devil. By His death he has reconciled us to our Heavenly Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. Without Him there is no life, no hope and eternal death. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. May we as His disciples bring this Gospel light to a world in darkness. Amen.  


No comments: