THE ‘LET’ OF JESUS IN HOLY WEEK – GOOD FRIDAY
Friday, April 2nd
Read Matthew 27:20-50.
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?”
But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Matthew 27:22-23 (NRSV)
We have come to this terrible day – Good Friday, the day we recall Jesus’s suffering and death by crucifixion. I almost feel as if any of my words are inadequate for reflection. The depth and magnitude of this day are hard to comprehend.
But on this awful day I find two incredible gifts…
Early in Lent, we remembered that Jesus became one with us as a tiny, helpless, human baby (5. LET US GO TO BETHLEHEM). Jesus also became like us when he chose to be baptized (6. LET IT BE SO NOW). And today, most significantly, Jesus became one with criminals as he suffered and died with them. His death wasn’t one superhuman death, his was one terrible death among others who suffered in the same way.
Jesus has experienced everything that we do, and even more; he knows what human life is like, what joys and sorrows we face, and he understands and relates with us completely. Jesus was born in a humble human birth even though he is the Son of God. He was baptized though sinless. He was crucified though innocent. Jesus lived and died doing everything the lowly did. We have this friend who will love, help, understand, forgive, and guide us – because he has done it all, too.
The second gift is the gift of forgiveness that Jesus exemplified on this terrible day. Forgiveness is choosing to stop the hurt instead of returning it with retaliation or revenge. Marty Troyer says it well:
When Pilate asks Jesus if he’s really a king, Jesus replies, “My kingdom is not recognized in this world. If it were from this world, My servants would be fighting for my freedom.” (John 18:36) Instead of entering the expected cycle of violent retribution or choosing to flee, Jesus chooses nonviolent self-sacrifice and forgiveness. Instead of a justifiable war cry, all we hear from Jesus is “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) At the precise moment one would expect divine anger to boil over into a kind of tit for tat, Jesus refuses every form of retribution imaginable.
And when the rubber meets the road and a disciple has wrongly used violence to protect Jesus (Matthew 26:52) he responds, “Put your sword back into its place, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” When Jesus first sees his followers who each hid out of empire’s gaze as he dies a painful death, his words are anything but vengeful: “Peace be to you.”
Rather than tit for tat, Jesus absorbs hate, returning good for evil.1
Even as a fully human being, sharing our struggles, feeling our fears, hearing judgment and criticism, bearing pain and suffering, Jesus chose to stop the violence and hatred. Jesus died, absorbing what was inflicted upon him without spreading it further. Jesus asked God to forgive us even while he was slowly suffering and dying on the cross. His was an act of pure and ultimate love.
On this day, let us fully and humbly thank Jesus for becoming one with us all the way from birth to death. And as we try to fathom his terrible suffering and agonizing death, let us kneel in sorrow and gratitude for his incredible forgiveness.
Our reading for tomorrow will be Romans 13:11-14.
1God’s Non-violent response to violence – The Peace Pastor (chron.com) – Marty Troyer
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Bible verses taken from https://classic.biblegateway.com/