Friday, April 22, 2011

Holy Week: Good Friday

Dear friends,

For Good Friday, the day when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins, two poems - "Good Friday" by Christina Rosetti and "Who Overcame Evil with Good" by Mary Whitcomb Hess - and then an essay.

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvatore Dali, 1951

Good Friday
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky.
A horror of great darkness at broad noon-
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

This tapestry, "The Crucifixion" by Pieter Pannemaker, is found in the National Gallery of Art. You can click on it to enlarge it. 

Who Overcame Evil by Good
by Mary Whitcomb Hess
after a homily by Saint Amphilochius in 4th century

They stretch Him
On a Cross to die ---
Our Lord Who first
Stretched out the sky

Whose countenance
The cherubim
Dare not gaze on …
They spat on Him

And gave Him gall
To drink
Though He
Brings us wells
Of eternity.

He prays for them
“Father, forgive…”
For He was born
That all might live.

Round the sealed tomb
Of Him they’ve slain
They set a guard
In vain, in vain

Round Him
Creation can’t contain
Who dies for us
To rise again.

I wrote this essay many years ago and always send it out for Good Friday.  It is a good reminder for me each year.

Is the Cross a Way of Life for You?
by Virginia Knowles

When I recall the death and resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think of just a historical fact or an inspiring story of love and devotion.  If Jesus died to pay for my sins, then he has every right to all of me. The cross of Christ is a call to a new way of life: the way to reconciliation and fellowship with the Father, the way to a liberated life, the way to follow Jesus, and the way to reach the world.  Is the cross a way of life for you? 

The Cross is Our Way to Reconciliation and Fellowship with the Father

We humans have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23).   The penalty for this sin is death – not only physical, but spiritual (Romans 6:23).  Sin alienates us from God and creates a barrier between us and him.  No person can break through it using his or her own efforts to be good.  Jesus, the perfect son of God, took our punishment on the cross so that we could enter into a relationship with the Father.  Without this sacrifice, we would have no hope at all.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.   Ephesians 2:13-16

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”    John 14:6 

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:19-22 

See also Colossians 1:19-22, Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 9-10.

The Cross is Our Way to the Liberated Life

The cross that brought us into the presence of God also enables us to walk step by step toward in victory.  It didn’t just set us free from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin too.   We can’t just say, “Oh, Jesus forgives my sin, so I can do what I want now.”  Instead we say, “Wow! Jesus forgives my sin, and since he bought me with his blood, I want to live in a way which pleases him.”  When we live by the cross, we want to take off the filthy rags of sin, and be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  Romans 6:6-12

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   Galatians 2:19b-20

See also 1 Peter 1:13-19.

The Cross is Our Way to Follow Jesus

The cross is our invitation to follow Jesus Christ.  Not only do we want to stop sinning, but we want to start doing something purposeful, something radical.  We stop living to please ourselves and get our own way, and we start seeking out what God wants us to do.  This is not an option, not an extra that is to be pursued only by the “serious” or “pious” among us.  He did not come to be part of our life, he came to be our life.  Is he at the center of all you do and say?

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 ESV

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27 ESV

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14

See also Galatians 6:14, Philippians 2:4-11 and Colossians 3:2-4.

The Cross is Our Way to Reach the World

When the cross of Christ becomes the most important thing in the world to us, we realize that we must share it with others.  Why keep the good news to ourselves?  As we realize that people are hopeless without Jesus, that they will spend eternity without him, then we are filled with a burning desire to bring them into the salvation that we have.  Can you imagine spending eternity in a glorious Heaven with your gracious Creator, who loved you so much that he died for you?  Then bring a friend along!  It’s the only thing you can take with you!

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.   For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.  Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with youinto his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:8-15 (ESV) 


My challenge to you is this: Is the cross a way of life for you?   Have you been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ?   Are you seeking to live a life that pleases him by putting off sin and putting on righteousness?  Have you devoted your life to sharing the Gospel with others?  The paradox is that when we take up the cross of Christ, we are taking up the abundant life! 

Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
Matthew 10:39

    For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings,
so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:15

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   John 10:10b

(All Scriptures are listed in the English Standard Version)

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful, Virgina. I'll be sharing this with my kids this week.


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