Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

“I AM.” That phrase, that earth-shaking phrase by which God introduced Himself to Moses, the very name of God: when Jesus utters it, His captors turn away and fall to the ground. What once boomed from within a burning bush will be silenced on a tree; the great I AM will be brutally slain.

Those who shared the meal with Him, whose feet He had washed, abandon Him. Judas, who sat in the seat of honor, who was fed by Jesus Himself, betrays Him with a kiss. Imagine how close Jesus and Judas must have been if the other apostles did not blink an eye at this demonstration of affection; perhaps it was the way Judas ordinarily greeted Our Lord day by day. Tonight, however, it was the kiss of a viper, and soon the coils were looped around Jesus and He was dragged from the sight of His friends.

The one whom the people hailed as a king on Sunday is scourged and mocked, dressed in purple and crowned in thorns; Pilate labels Him “The King of the Jews” as a jab at the helplessly oppressed people of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. So bleak is their outlook and so great is their fear of Jesus that they make the ultimate betrayal, saying to Rome’s representative, “We have no king but Caesar.” And yet, on occasion, one might have heard echoing from the Temple the opening of Psalm 93: “The Lord is king, robed with majesty; the Lord is robed, girded with might…” If only they knew He was not merely the King of the Jews, but of all creation, and had come not to save them from Rome—no!—but the ancient serpent, man’s most constant enemy.

And so we go to the battlefield of Calvary where, in a poetic twist, God and Satan face one another in a familiar setting, and to the victor goes the destiny of mankind. John’s Gospel starts with “In the beginning…” and after a successive order of days we come to Cana, where Jesus—the New Adam—greets His own mother as the Old Adam first greeted the Old Eve: “Woman.” Now here at Calvary—when “it is finished”—we see the New Adam greet the New Eve again as “woman,” entrusting to her the first of many spiritual children. The Old Eve was so named because she was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20); the New Eve was to be the mother of all those newly alive in her Son. We have a tree in the middle of a garden: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden…” On this tree hangs that which we must eat in order to have eternal life (John 6:53), but unlike the Forbidden Fruit it is not pleasing to the eye, nor good for gaining wisdom (Genesis 3:6). It is mangled, bruised, and ugly, and it is foolishness, not wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:25) The thought of eating this fruit is revolting, and the serpent silently tempts, “Did God really say, ‘You must eat of my flesh and drink of my blood?’ If you do so, you will certainly die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be closed in a death like this man’s death, and you will be no more.”

Yet here, with the death of Jesus, the knot of Eden is undone, and the coils of the serpent and sin’s venom lose their power, for when Death swallows Jesus, it chokes and dies. The Sword of Truth cuts through the Gordian Knot of Death! Adam and Eve faced against an opponent they could not defeat: now Jesus, Son of both God and Man, deals a death blow to Death by Himself dying.

To the Enemy’s great confusion and hate this day we ignore his lies and threats, and we venerate the Cross on which our Savior died. We kneel before it, we kiss it; we mourn the death of the One who hung lifeless upon it. The fruit of this dead tree will then be buried, as any fruit that is not eaten is meant to be, but no one—not even Satan in all his might—could foresee what would blossom from the cold stone of the tomb…

April 14th, 2017