At the Cross

Today’s readings are parts of John 18Open Link in New Window & John 19Open Link in New Window.

Here is today’s reflection by Ian.

The cross brings us face to face with the suffering of Jesus. He was alone and his disciples had left him except his mother and three women, and John, the beloved disciple. His death on the cross was utterly humiliating and full of the most awful torture. Usually those who were crucified could linger a very long time on the cross before they died. But Jesus had already endured torture, beatings and more. Remember he had that ‘crown of thorns’ shoved down onto his head? So it is not so surprising that Jesus died in the afternoon.

Pontius Pilate had made the public declaration that Jesus be called the ‘King of the Jews’ and had a notice fixed to the cross to that effect, hugely annoying Jesus’ main protagonists, the Chief Priest and the Pharisees.

But Jesus was also crucified because of his claim to be the king. The Jews knew that the Messiah would come as their king, to establish the kingdom of God for them. But they wanted a king who would free them the oppression of Roman rule. Many people did hope that Jesus would be the Messiah, the chosen one of God promised in the Old Testament scriptures. He was and is. But there was a wide misunderstanding of what sort of kingdom this would be. Jesus came to win hearts for God. He came to be king of a kingdom that was utterly different from the reality of earthly kingdoms.

And the proof of God’s love for us, is Jesus freely offering his life for us on the cross. The last words of Jesus, ‘It is finished / It is fulfilled’ were not words of defeat or resignation. They were words which acknowledged the triumph of God over sin and evil, in that God’s plan to save the world he loves so much, to redeem the world, had been completed by Jesus death on the cross. As he died, Jesus knew this. Jesus remained true to the love of God the Father. The reason and purpose for God sending Jesus into the world, had been completed and accomplished.

The closest followers of Jesus, his disciples, mostly ran away in fear of the Jewish authorities and what might happen to them. But remember, Jesus’ mother, some women and the beloved disciple, stayed with Jesus to and beyond the end.

You and I are invited, alongside Mary and the women, to be present with Jesus, while he hung on the cross. We see his blood flowing for us. We see his body pierced and broken, for us. We see his arms stretched out on that cross, as if encompassing us all in his embrace of love.

The cross of Christ is the heart of the Christian faith, the assurance of God’s mercy, acceptance, forgiveness, new life and new hope. On the cross, Jesus has set us free from the shackles of sin. The cross shows us the way to victory over sin and death, over failure and despair. This is the meaning of Good Friday, and as we look at Jesus on the cross, with Mary, the women and the beloved disciple, remember that:

  • Jesus was humiliated so that we could be lifted up.
  • Jesus was broken, so that we could be made whole. Jesus knew despair, so that we would know hope.
  • Jesus died on the cross, so that we could have life—in all its fullness.

And we remember and celebrate that wonderful gift of life, three days later.

There will be a video version of the service.

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