We have walked with Christ to this moment. Starting on Palm Sunday, we began a journey that brought to mind and heart the choices Jesus made, and that we made, and continue to make in this world.
We shouted “Hosanna” and then “Crucify him!” all as Jesus made the choice of peace over violence, healing over pain.
We stripped the altar, and we stripped bare our own minds from the distractions that pull us from Christ, all as Jesus made the choice of service over status, love over bitterness.
And now we are here.
And again, Jesus makes a choice – or several. We can sometimes forget that this death on the cross was not something done to him, but something he chose to accept. You see, there were many times he could have escaped this fate. We heard of them tonight – in front of Pilate, or Herod, or for that matter, he could have avoided Jerusalem altogether.
He did not.
Even in his final moments on the cross, even in his death, his life isn’t taken over, but given over. In the words of one commentator, David Lose, “Jesus does not simply stop breathing, surrendering to a tragic fate. Rather, he commends, or gives over, his spirit[…]. His last words are, in short, a prayer of confidence, trust, and obedience. Why? Because while his death is in many ways tragic, it is no accident. Rather, he follows this road to express God’s complete solidarity with us in all things, including even the fear and experience of death, and to demonstrate that God’s love is stronger than hate and that God’s life is stronger than death. Jesus does not die, in other words, to make it possible for God to forgive us, but rather to show us that God already has forgiven us because God loves us.”
Jesus enters into this journey to the cross willingly, for us – not because the cross itself confers some sort of salvation, but that in the way in which Jesus lived, walking in love and showing us the way, the cross acts as the culmination of his life, the final example he set about in his earthly ministry, and it is that life, the life that chooses to go to the cross, that offers salvation to all of us.
And so now we have a choice to make too.
And those of you here tonight are participating in that choice.
It is to understand this night not as the end of something, but as the beginning.
It is to move forward to tomorrow, lingering in the darkness of the cross, and keeping a part of that with you, even in the light of what is to come on Easter Sunday.
It is to remember that we always have a choice – to love rather than hate, to bring about peace rather than violence, to offer healing in places of great pain.
It is to go out from here to ensure that Jesus’ choice was not in vain by making it our choice. No, not dying on the cross literally, but dying to all that holds us back from living as Jesus lived, and calls us to live now as the body of Christ alive in the world today.
Tonight, let us leave from this place shaken up a bit. Shaken from our complacency, from our sense that we have no part in what goes on around us, from our unwillingness to see the Christ in the other, from our inability to see the Christ in ourselves.
Let us leave here with questions. Questions about our own role in the crosses of today – the places we have conferred hatred rather than love, violence rather than peace, pain rather than healing grace.
Let us linger in the shadow of that cross, in the shadow of our inhumanity, our indifference, our intolerance.
Because if we are to ever live in the light of Easter, we must never forget the darkness we feel tonight.
And we must always look for the better choice.
For the audio of tonight’s homily, click below:
The Rev. Diana L. Wilcox
Christ Church in Bloomfield & Glen Ridge
March 25, 2016
Good Friday – Year C
Gospel – John 18:1-19:42