Holy Week: Friday

John 19, Matthew 27:1-61, Luke 23, Mark 15

Outside of our church stands a lone cross.

It is bare and empty, a testament to the fact that Jesus came off of the cross and conquered death -- and a haunting reminder of the path that he leads us on. The path to  true life is through faith and self-denial (Matthew 16:24, Acts 14:22).

Of all the events recorded in Scripture, the crucifixion of Christ may be the most well-known. Those of us who find ourselves in church on the weekends hear echoes and reminders of the crucifixion at least once a week, and even those who are only nominally connected to the Christian faith are familiar with the symbol of the cross. Almost all of us in the West know the basic story of the cross: Jesus, the Son of God, was offered up as a sacrifice for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. He paid a debt we could not afford. He fulfilled the calling of both humanity and Israel that we all failed to keep. And by his death, he defeated death once and for all. And whether one believes that Christ is God or not, the undeniable fact is that the crucifixion (and resurrection) changed the course of human history.

But our familiarity with the crucifixion story can, unfortunately, numb us to the power and wonder of Good Friday; we easily develop a certain “nose-blindness” to the fragrant offering set before us in Scripture. How can we enter again into the almost unspeakable mystery of what J.R.R. Tolkien called the Good Catastrophe?

Personally, I’ve found poetry helpful. So I wrote a poem about the crucifixion. It was inspired by my reading of Luke 23, and a stirring photo of a crucifix.

The cross demands my silence,
and yet I cannot help but speak.

There the contorted Christ hangs,
body wrenched in unholy ascension,
yet his bones remain unbroken
and he is heavy against sin’s gravity.

He is suspended between
sky and earth,
heaven and hell,
the space of utter loneliness.

His arms are stretched so wide,
horrifically angelic,
as if in embrace and invitation:
“This way lies the path of life:
Come to me, all you who are weary
and all you with heavy loads,
come to me up the steep Golgotha road
with its jet jagged rocks slicing your feet,
come to me with sweat on your brow
dripping into your scourged flesh like fire,
come to me up on this altar, the cross,
as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God.
come to me by the narrow lane of faith.”

Here at the cross,
I enter into the mystery
of the Suffering Servant,
who through the nails that pierced him
crushed the serpent’s head.

Oh blessed Christ, mercifully receive all
who come to you this day.