A Good Friday Meditation
Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42
Cathedral of St. Paul, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
When I survey the wondrous cross, what do I see?
When you survey the wondrous cross, what do you see?
A cruel instrument of personal torture and public terror?
It was certainly that.
The Romans used the cross liberally to maintain the order of their empire.
And it certainly was a cruel, painful, humiliating way to die.
As we gather to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus,
we do well to remember that the cross on which he died
was a cruel instrument of torture and terror.
But, when Jesus was hung on a cross to die,
this notorious instrument of personal torture and public terror
was transformed into something more.
It became a platform, an altar, and a throne.
Look at the three windows at the back of the cathedral.
On the right is the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah.
On the left is the Old Testament priest, Aaron.
In the center is the Old Testament King, David.
Jesus is the fulfillment of each of these Old Testament offices.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
I see the platform for the Prophet proclaiming the Good News.
With Jesus, the cross became a platform for a prophet – the Prophet.
This prophet came not simply to deliver a word from God,
he was the very Word of God enfleshed.
From this unusual wooden platform of the cross,
he uttered this prophetic word, “It is finished.”
What is finished?
The reign of death.
With the death of Jesus
we see the death of death.
Now, however much it might seem that death has the last word,
we know that Jesus – his life and love –
is the last word and death is finished.
As the Prophet’s proclamation echoes through the ages
from this wooden platform,
death becomes a whisper.
Death is as fleeting as late spring snow.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
I see the altar where the one Priest becomes the one Sacrifice.
Jesus is the priest able to sympathize with our weakness,
tested as we are, yet without sin.
On that wooden, cross-shaped altar,
Jesus, the one the Sacrifice,
bore our infirmities and carried our diseases.
He was wounded for our transgressions
and crushed for our iniquities.
With his death, our sin dies
and by his bruises we are healed.
Jesus is the source of eternal salvation.
When I survey the wondrous cross, I also see a throne
from which the King of glory reigns.
“Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews”
is also King and Lord of all creation.
Especially in the Gospel of John,
the cross is transformed from an instrument
of torture, terror and death
into an instrument of glory.
In chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, Jesus declares,
“But I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself”
and “the prince of this world will be driven out.”
The prince of this world rules though fear,
torture and terror,
destruction and death.
The prince of this world wins when we respond
with fear and hatred and vengeance.
But, on the cross, the prince of this world
The one true King assumes his throne
and begins his reign of love and peace and reconciliation.
Let us remember on Good Friday that Jesus died a cruel death
on an instrument of personal torture and public terror.
Let us also remember that he transformed the cross into something more.
Let us rejoice that he has made possible our transformation
as we are freed from the power of Death and Sin
and welcomed as subjects of his gracious reign.
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, I see more.
I see a platform for a prophet.
I see an altar where priest and sacrifice are one.
I see a throne from whence reigns the Prince of Peace who is the King of Glory.