Daily Archives: April 2, 2010

It is Finished

“28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19: 28-30 NRSV

 Good Friday, I wrote about it last night and published it very early this morning.  I just completed the Good Friday Liturgy at the hospital and am set to get an early start on the rest of the Easter Weekend.  I am not going to repeat last night’s article here, just something that struck me as I prepared for the service and read the Passion narrative from John’s Gospel.  The words It is finished” which come from the lips of Jesus as he dies convey a finality that sometimes we miss as we fast forward to Easter. Upon the Cross Jesus really did die and this can be very uncomfortable in fact a number of major religions reject the notion that God would condescend to become human and certain would never consent to death.  Such a stream of thought was even evidenced in Gnostic Christianity where God is “pure spirit” and the God of the Old Testament was corrupt being powerful enough o create humanity and wicked enough to do so as for the Gnostics the flesh was evil and the spirit good.  Likewise the Aryan Heresy invoked the notion of a Jesus who was not really God, more like a superman as God could not die.  The thought of the Aryans is still present in Islam as Mohammed the Prophet had exposure to Aryan Christianity and the image of Jesus in Islam is nearly identical to the Aryans.

 “It is finished.” They are haunting words and when one reads the words of Isaiah one gets the picture of something that if we passed by on the street that we would probably turn our heads away from to avoid the unpleasantness of the sight as “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.”   

 The hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is particularly vivid in painting the picture of the crucified Christ: “See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown.”

 The fact that Jesus dies on the cross and dies rejected is a paramount truth of the Gospel and is necessary if we are to comprehend the Gospel, we do not get to the resurrection without the crucifixion and any attempt to do so especially by his people creates a false Gospel, a Gospel devoid of the forgiveness of sins and a Gospel where God knows not our sorrows.  It is the Gospel of Theism where God is not involved in the real world; untouched and unmoved by human suffering and even arbitrary and capricious in his dealings with humanity.   Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Jesus is a rejected Messiah. His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory. It must be a passion without honor. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus. To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men. Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ.” 

 The fact that Jesus did not let the cup from him has implications for his disciples which again are not comfortable as they stand opposed to the “Gospel” of those who present the faith as one of respect, prosperity, earthy power and health.  It is not the “Gospel” of materialism where we remain in relationship with God only for the blessings but the Gospel of discipleship and suffering.  It is the cry My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” which Jesus utters as rejected by man and by God as Bonhoeffer said “It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause of conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity… We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering.”

 Again, such a Gospel is not comfortable for the disciple the Gospel of the Cross whereby we come to know God is the Gospel which “bids a man to come and die.” This is not the kind of martyrdom sought by fanatics who seek to destroy their and presumably God’s enemies but a call that is unique to every disciple:

 “But each has a different share: some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and given them the grace of martyrdom, while others He does not allow to be tempted above that they are able to bear…. The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. … we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. … When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.…death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man [or nature] at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die…”

 There is a hymn that means much to me is “And Can it be” which personalizes the great mystery inherent in the Gospel.

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’ Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

 It is finished and with it we wait. Like the disciples we know not what tomorrow holds we live in a tension knowing Christ’s suffering and awaiting resurrection.  The Centurion Loginous at the Cross saw what no one else saw that day knew that “surely this was the Son of God” and like the disciples would lay down his duties to follow Christ.

 I pray that God will richly bless us this Good Friday with his peace which as he says passes all understanding.

 Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under christian life, faith, Religion

Good Friday…Ecce Homo! Behold the Man

“God is nowhere greater than in his humiliation. God is nowhere more glorious than in his impotence. God is nowhere more divine than when he becomes man” Jürgen Moltmann Trinity and Kingdom


“So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew* is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.” John 19: 16b-18

4Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6

“My God my God why have you forsaken me?”

Today is Good Friday, the Altars are bare and we simply “Behold the Man.” The picture that we have today is paradoxical, it is the picture of a suffering man betrayed by a friend, abandoned by his closest followers and executed in a barbaric fashion under the orders of a man who washes his hands of his own responsibility.  It is a picture that is troubling because of its unpleasantness it is not the kind of picture of God that we want.  While we gladly acknowledge God’s grace and God forgiving our sins through Jesus we want to stay on this side of the resurrection. But like it or not we are confronted with questions about why do the innocent suffer and how could God do this to me or the one that I love.  Much of the problem is that we often buy in to a God untouched by human suffering a God who is arbitrary, unfeeling and cold no matter how much we try to convince ourselves that he cares.  A God incapable of suffering is a cold comfort when we or a loved one suffers. This is not the Christian God even if we try to baptize this “god” in our theology.  “In Christianity the cross is the test of everything that deserves to be called Christian” so writes Jürgen Moltmann in “The Crucified God.”

The Cross and the Passion of Christ is the center of how Christians come to understand God and if we attempt to regulate it to the background we do the message of the Gospel violence.  This is very apparent in the number of churches that do nothing to acknowledge the event on Good Friday even as they adorn their churches for the Easter celebration. It is as if the central event in God’s revelation to humanity and means by which he reconciles humanity to himself is a stepchild to the resurrection, but without the Cross there is no resurrection. It is also seen by some who find the symbol of the Crucifix offensive often derisively saying “Jesus isn’t on the Cross anymore, I worship the Risen Jesus.” While we worship the Risen Christ he also remains the Crucified God who in his human flesh bore the sins of the world. It is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:

“The figure of the reconciler, of the God-man Jesus Christ, steps into the middle between God and the world, into the center of all that happens.  In this figure is disclosed the mystery of the world, just as the mystery of God is revealed in it.  No abyss of evil can remain hidden from him through whom the world is reconciled to God.  But the abyss of the love of God embraces even the most abysmal godlessness of the world.  In an incomprehensible reversal of all righteous and pious thought, God declares himself as guilty toward the world and thereby extinguishes the guilt of the world.  God treads the way of humble reconciliation and thereby sets the world free.  God wills to be guilty of our guilt; God takes on the punishment and suffering that guilt has brought on us.  God takes responsibility for godlessness, love for hate, the holy one for the sinner.  Now there is no more godlessness, hate, or sin that God has not taken upon himself, suffered, and atoned.  Now there is not longer any reality, any world, that is not reconciled with God and at peace.  God has done this in the beloved son, Jesus Christ.  Ecce homo!” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 6, edited by Clifford J. Green and translated by Reinhard Krauss, Charles C. West, and Douglas W. Scott (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 83.

In addition to its salvific value the Cross of Christ is also relevant to all who suffer as “the deep meaning of the cross of Christ is that there is no suffering on earth that is not borne by God.” In the Cross God identifies himself with all of humanity especially those afflicted or persecuted.

Today we take the time to reflect and remember this event. Many people will have a day of fasting and accompany it with prayer or service.  My prayer is that in the midst of the various crises that we face in the country and the world that we will take the time as Christians to ponder the depth of God’s love and identification with his all people and the ramifications for how we treat others, even those that we view as our opponents or even enemies.  If God can condescend to love us while we were at enmity with him, just how can we fail to treat others with the same love? To again quote Bonhoeffer with whom I have walked this Lenten season:

“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”

Ecce Homo! Behold the Man!

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under christian life, faith, Religion