Good Friday Tenebrae The First Word lk 23:34Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. The Second Word lk 23:43Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. The Third Word jn 19:26-7
Woman, here is your son.
The Fourth Word mk 15:34, mt 27.46My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The Fifth Word jn 19:28I am thirsty. The Sixth Word jn 19:30It is finished. The Seventh Word lk 23:46Father, into your hands I commend my spirit
Isaiah 53:4Surely 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.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Tonight we gather for a service in the shadows. We’ve reached Good Friday of holy week. We’ve followed Jesus these past months as he’s traveled, healed the blind, and raised the dead. We’ve traveled into Jerusalem with Jesus. We waved our palms and sang hosanna. We remembered the joy of those gathered for the parade. We remembered their hopes that this Jesus was the Messiah, the new king sent from God, who would overthrow Roman rule and bring Israel into a time of prosperity. We gathered around the wall for Jesus’ intimate last supper. We heard his declaration that there would be a new covenant in his body and blood that would unite all people with God.
Tonight, we follow Jesus to the cross. We meet Jesus through the witness of the four Gospels. These four witnesses record seven phrases that Jesus utters from the cross, before his death. Together we will consider them in word, song, prayer, and silence.
We’ve come to meet Jesus at the cross. We find that we are not the only ones gathered around the foot of the cross. This is the place where his faithful followers, who scattered at his arrest, have gathered. This is the place where the sick and disabled, who followed him throughout the countryside hoping for healing, have gathered. Where those who didn’t find Jesus to be the king of power and glory they had hoped for have gathered. Where the Roman officials and religious authorities who hoped death would quiet a possible rebellion have gathered.
It is here at the cross that we meet our God, most fully revealed. At this cross, in this humility and suffering, we know the true nature of our God. In Jesus Christ on the cross, we meet a God who experiences suffering. This is not a God who is distant from suffering, who is found only in wholeness and joy. This is a God who knows suffering from Jesus’ own experience. Who knows abandonment in Jesus’ betrayal and loneliness on the cross.
Jesus’ suffering is good news. It is good news because we are a people who suffer. We are a people who know sin and brokenness. It is good news to me because I know that when I wrap my arms around a loved one, when their story of hurt, betrayal, and brokenness is told through heart-wrenching sobs, I know we’re not alone. God is there. Even when I can’t fathom the pain that person has gone through, Jesus can. Jesus understands.
Tonight we hear the last words Jesus speaks before his death. From the cross, Jesus does not say words of condemnation. He does not shout in anger at friends and followers who have turned their backs on him. Rather, he offers words of forgiveness, of love. He cries out in the reality of his suffering. All this because the message that God loves all God has created is important enough to suffer and die for. As we encounter Jesus tonight, I invite you to see where God is especially being revealed to you. Does one of Jesus’ last words answer a questioning in your heart? Does a song verse really say what you’re feeling tonight? Cherish these words. Jesus meets you at the cross.
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