Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday II

This story is rife with elements that offend our sensibilities.
So much is so wrong
in the story of the suffering and death of Jesus.

Jesus was up against a "system" that was corrupt and self-serving:
when it suited the needs of the religious or civil authorities
both were willing to cooperate for personal or corporate gain.

The court proceedings involving Jesus were ludicrous
and about as far from standards of common law and common sense
as one might imagine.

• Jesus is hauled in on trumped-up charges
on the word of a dime-dropping traitor.
• False witnesses are seriously entertained.
• The defendant is invited to incriminate himself.
• The defendant’s only counsel is that of another kingdom.
• He is judged by a governor who admits his ignorance of the truth.
• He is subjected to the brutality of military police.
• The sentence is handed down by a mob
which has not had the benefit of witnessing the proceedings
of the kangaroo court that found Jesus guilty.

• A known rebel and murderer is set free
and Jesus becomes the victim.
• Nothing here is as it should have been.
• Nothing here is right or fair or just.
• Everything here is so wrong.

“Jesus, innocent and without sin, gave himself into our hands
and was nailed to a cross.”

Jesus is the victim – the innocent victim:
“the lamb led to the slaughter,”

the holy, spotless scapegoat
who took upon his shoulders our sins, our failures, our injustices,
our faults, our transgressions, our infidelities.
He deserved what he suffered
no more than we deserve his suffering for our sakes.

Is there an injustice greater than this:
that an innocent man is condemned and the guilty are set free?
that Barabbas is let go and Jesus put to death?
that we be forgiven and Jesus pay the price?

Everything here is so wrong,
and yet it is in this very injustice done to Christ
that we are justified before God.

It was “our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…
he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole…
upon him was laid the guilt of us all…
by the stripes on his back, we were healed.”

If such justification offends our modern sensibilities,
it’s possible that we run the risk
of dismissing the suffering and death of Jesus
as something foolish; a waste;
a sad, pious dated story.
But only at our own peril
do we not take seriously and take to heart and soul
the gift of God’s mercy
mediated in the tragic and redeeming death of Christ.

Apart from the sacrifice of this tremendous lover named Jesus,
what hope has any of us before the judgment seat of God?
Outside the embrace of Christ’s arms outstretched on the Cross,
how will we hope to be gathered into and held
in the everlasting arms of God?

If this story does offend our sensibilities, then:
- let us use our indignation to fuel our efforts
to right injustices in the governing
of our nation and our church;
- let us use our righteous anger to rescue the innocent
victimized by war, power and finance;
- let us use our embarrassment to right the wrongs in our own lives,
in our families, our schools, in our communities and at work.

But let us never be offended by the outpouring of love
flowing from the wounds of Jesus
who took no offense at taking on his shoulders
the shame of our sins.

“For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and find grace for timely help.”
(second reading)

“We should glory in the Cross of Christ
for he is our salvation, our life and resurrection;
through him we are saved – and we made free!”
(Galatians 6:14)