The unfortunate priest gets to preach seven sermons on Good Friday. In many a church but less than in former times the three hours devotion is kept. People can come and go & thus escape the bad preacher but not so the clergy. I can remember freezing through such a service in Wilmslow when I was a curate after the Rector told me to give my cloak to the elderly reader – young blood. There we had so many clergy & readers that we only had to do one sermon each. Usually the sermons were on the seven last words of Jesus on the Cross as recorded by the four evangelists.
Today we only have an hour - & St. John who gives us three sets of last words. So before we venerate the cross of Christ – a cross rough hewn for us by the workshop of the New Hope Trust – a sacramental sign of the suffering of the homeless – we can reflect on Jesus’ words.
So now knowing ourselves to be bound in deep familial ties to the Lord, knowing ourselves in all our fragility and weakness to be the church, we bring to Jesus the needs of humanity as we make intercession in the power of the Spirit, that Jesus gives to us.
- ‘Woman, here is your son’ ... ‘Here is your mother.’ Jesus hands over his mother Mary to the care of the beloved disciple St. John and vice versa. Unlike the other gospels where the disciples flee & the women watch from afar St. John places the two, woman & disciple at the foot of the Cross – the scene depicted in many a rood. Their presence is symbolic as with much in St. John. Jesus could be ambivalent about family. In St. Mark, when his mother and brothers asked for him, Jesus replied with the question, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ answering that they are whoever does the will of God.
- Thus in Christ there is a new family based on discipleship. Mary & John are first in this family. It does not preclude relatives (the mother) or friends (John) but it goes wider. Here at the Cross, for St. John, the Church is already in existence. The Church is small & fragile, linked to the apparent failure present in the death of its Lord. It is also strong, deeply bound together in the triangular relationship of Jesus, Mary & John, echoing the Trinitarian relationship of Father, Son & Holy Spirit. So let us know our fragility and weakness as a church but also our strength in familial relationship with Jesus, Mary & John.
- ‘I am thirsty.’ In St. John (unlike St Mark where Jesus is done to) Jesus remains in control. He says he is thirsty. Knowing that all is finished he is concerned to fulfil the scripture. Jesus is the Passover sacrifice. Hyssop was used to sprinkle blood of the paschal lambs on the Israelite door posts before the Exodus. Jesus was sentenced to death at noon on Passover Eve as the lambs were slaughtered. Now the one who John Baptist saw as the Lamb of God is sacrificed. ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ All is now accomplished as Jesus receives a vinegar soaked sponge on a hyssop branch. Jesus’ has human needs, at the moment of death he thirsts. At the foot of his cross we bring our human need as we behold the Lamb of God.
- ‘It is finished.’ So saying, still in control, Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit. This is very different from the terrible Marken cry of ‘My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me.’ This is a calm scene in total contrast to the gut wrenching dereliction of Mark. Jesus gave up his spirit, he handed it over. Here already is a possible hint that already Jesus was handing over his Spirit to Mary and John. For St John, more than the other Gospel writers with their linear view, the Cross and the Resurrection are intimately linked with the communication of the Holy Spirit. At the foot of the cross we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives. In giving up, in giving away, even in death, we receive Christ’s life in all its fullness.
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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at email@example.com Last updated 27/03/2009 10:30 Author: David Shepherd