Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thank God It’s Friday

Fr. Dale Matson

How many times have you said, “TGIF, Thank God it’s Friday?” What about today? Today is Friday too isn’t it.  Have you ever posed this question to yourself? “What is so good about Good Friday?” As you reflected at each station of the cross, was there anything but increasing sorrow as you passed each station?  I think the key to providing an answer lies in a simple statement in Genesis by Joseph to his brothers. His jealous brothers had sold him into slavery and told his father that Joseph had died. Years later, his brothers asked for forgiveness. Joseph stated, “What you intended for evil God intended for good.” (Genesis 15:20) In fact, the situation was similar to that of Jesus. 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 continually emerged. When Jesus healed people, the Pharisees thought He was using demonic power. Being evil, those were the lenses through which they could see. They projected their own evil on a perfect man. They of course, like unspiritual religious people of any age have no power and cannot do mighty works. They cannot even discern good from evil. As a matter of fact, people that are not led by the Holy Spirit are confused about most everything. Their minds are darkened. They asked for a perfect man to be crucified (Jesus) and a murderer to be released (Barabbas). People without Christ call evil good and good evil. They don’t know any better. That is why Jesus said from the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” Darkened minds see the world upside down. Sinful behavior rewires the brain and people eventually adjust to distorted behavior and a distorted world view.

Research psychologists put special prism glasses on volunteers that caused them to see the world upside down. Do you know what eventually happened? The brains of those people adjusted and what was once perceived as an upside down world became right side up again. That is the affect that sinful behavior has on perception. Evil becomes good.

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.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.” (John 11: 45-53)

How convinced were the Jews 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. This cross is such an offense, such an outrage and such foolishness to those that are perishing yet to us, the cross is the icon of our faith, the symbol of our hope and the emblem of God’s Holy love for us.

The Pharisees were willing to see a fellow Israelite die for an offense that all of them were guilty of. They didn’t want Caesar as their king either 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.

There are questions that 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 Judas, knowing that Judas would betray Him? This is an example of loving your enemy and makes our petty disputes pale 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 is 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 the disciple and Pontius Pilot the Roman. They were responsible for this betrayal, this injustice. If it weren’t for them, the devil’s agents, would Jesus have been crucified? Yes, 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 went to the cross. Today is an anamnesis. Today is a remembering in sacred time of those events. Yes, this is a Good Friday!

The season of Lent is long and arduous. It is an annual cyclical emotional descent to the foot of the cross as we 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. Then keep my commandments.

We live in a pagan, post Christian society. The door for evangelism is gradually closing. The freedom we once had to share our Christian faith is gradually being removed. Christians are being portrayed as judgmental, out of touch, haters and even terrorists. How long will it be before we are openly persecuted? The door of opportunity is closing. It will soon be night. Forget about social activism. You cannot reason with residents of the kingdom of this world.  If you read the news media we are the problem. How do Christians deal with this reality? What is the answer? Talk about Christ to others. Give them your testimony. Conduct yourself like a Christian so others can see the difference in your life. Be a living love letter to others. Pray often for the souls of the lost. Why is this so important? It is our calling as Christians. This is the mission of a living church. Doctrinal innovation is not a product of a lively church, innovation is a symptom of a dead church. The living church is under one Lord, birthed through one baptism into one holy catholic and apostolic faith.
What is good about Good Friday? What is good about the injustice of the crucifixion of a perfect and innocent man? Humans and Satan 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.

There is Good News in this. Our Epistle lesson from Hebrews states, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) Christ’s death on the cross reconciled us to God and saved us from our sins. But there is even more Good News. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Verse 14) Even though we are at this very moment, working out our own Salvation with fear and trembling, we are also standing before the Father reconciled, saved and perfect. That is the mystery of Christ’s finished work. His work is accomplished, is being accomplished and will be accomplished. God’s time is the eternal now and the church is on His clock. God’s clock is always ‘Savings Time’.

Without Christ, 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 descending further and further into darkness. The world will be destroyed again and we are secure in Christ. He is our Ark. Now is the appropriate time, starting with us. Christ is also in us. We are the bearers of the water of life to a world dying of thirst. May it flow forth from us as we tell others of our Lord and Savior  Jesus the Christ. Amen.  


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