Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Matthew 27
45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land[p] until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

We’ve come to what seems the end of the story, but soon we’ll know the truth. But for today, we dwell in what seems the end of the story, and it feels hardly removed from the beginning.

Barely four months from Bethlehem to Calvary, from the star-lit-angel-narrated-festival to the humiliation of the cross. We meet Jesus—ever briefly—at age twelve, and next he’s wading in the water of the River Jordan. Three years of public ministry unfold in a few short chapters, and we arrive at today.

If it seems unsatisfying, this lack of knowing, this narrative with a beginning, a fleeting middle and an elaborate end—you are not alone in this feeling. As early as the end of the first century, people were busy filling in the details.

One famous example is called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, thankfully omitted from our Bibles but instructive nonetheless. It describes what Jesus’ childhood might be like—bringing clay birds to life, resurrecting the neighbour’s boy who fell off the roof—all the things we imagine a boy-God might get into. Early on it was labelled fiction.

I share this to illustrate the path from human boy to dying God. This mysterious and unfathomable event—God in Jesus dying on the cross—is part of Paul calls ‘seeing through a glass, darkly.’ What we now see in part we will someday see plainly—as face to face.

Suffice it to say, the sacrifice, the end of death, the end of the separation between God and humanity only works if God is dying on the cross—only works if God enters the well of human suffering and says ‘no more.‘ All of our sin, all of our separation, ends in a single moment.

Eli, eli, lema, sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

C.K. Chesterton famously said we share the “one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.” God seems to lose faith in God—which is oddly a comfort for anyone who experiences doubt. If God can lose faith in God, even for a moment, how much permission does this extend to those who ask ‘God, where are you now?’

I would argue that this is the moment that Jesus becomes fully human and fully divine—the moment when self-doubt becomes divine self-doubt, and when the Lord has provided something truly unexpected: through dying, an end to death. First Jesus knew in part, but then he knew, even as he was fully known.

And the love that abides continues to this day, this moment. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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