Two cries cut through time from that first Good Friday to this Good Friday.
One comes from the religious leaders who scripted the piercing cry picked up by the crowds to echo through the centuries,
‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’
“He’s got to go”…for reasons that hide behind the authors of that cry.
“He’s undermining our elevated position as the only ones who can teach and interpret the Ten Commandments.
People are saying of Him that they never heard our Law taught in such a down-to-earth way; even the uneducated, the illiterate can understand it and long to live it.
“With the Ten Commandments amended to a count of 613, we have a secure job as interpretations and arbitrators of that maize of regulations, but He’s threatening our security by quoting our daily devotional that anyone can remember: (Dent. 6: 4-5)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. calling it the first commandment and bundling all the others into the second (Matt. 22: 39-40) ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ and then pronouncing:
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
He’s giving a twist to the Law that will put us out of business.
He’s got to go! “Away with Him! Crucify Him!”
The cry that cuts through time from that first Good Friday when the Gospel writer John naming those voices “the chief priest and the police,” to the unnamed among us whose condemning cries are far more subtle:
veiled in the niceness of keeping our faith to ourselves;
of abandoning Jesus’ two-part summary of the God-given laws for living, saying it is too partisan for today’s world;
of becoming so indifferent to the thorn-crowned Christ about to become the ultimate gift of God’s pardoning love,
that a poem speaks of us as it did of the English city named in G. A. Studdert-Kennedy’s lines:
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Today’s naming of the those whose indifference is a silent cry of “Crucify Him!”
the cry that can be traced to us?
Two cries cut through time from that first Good Friday
to this Good Friday.
The second comes from Jesus crying out from His pulpit-cross, using His last surge of breath. Speaking with a parched tongue moistened with bitter wine raised to His lips on a filthy sponge,
he said, ‘It is finished.’
“It is finished!”
the satisfaction “the chief priest and the police” smugly celebrate,
the signal for soldiers on cleanup duty to perform the routine to ready the cross to raise another criminal to hang till dead.
“It is finished!” yes, that is how the word may sound to them.
But not to Peter; who can’t find a way to shake his guilt, and not to the women whose grief is consuming their strength. To them, “It is finished!” means there is no hope; no future; for them, life itself is “finished, “over, ended! Done!
…until the tone of Jesus’ cry penetrates Peter’s guilt and the women’s grief to see Jesus’ pulpit-cross has become God’s high altar, echoing the words John the Baptizer had announced as Jesus’ send off into His ministry:
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
“It is finished!” Peter’s guilt, the women’s grief; FINISHED! our guilt, our grief, our despair in these futile times,
these seemingly last day, fatal times; FINISHED! with Jesus’ cry from Calvary’s hill-crowned cross
As Cecil Alexander sat by the bed of her seriously ill daughter and thought of the grassy mound outside the old city wall in Derry, Ireland, the cry of Jesus led her to write the hymn:
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.
…”unlock the gate of heaven and let us in” welcomed by God’s merit in Jesus; and unlocking “the gate” to “let us” OUT of a prison on this side of death,
releasing us from the smugness of “the high priest and police,”
and an indifference to or a rejection of Jesus’ charge to “love one another as I have loved you.”
In a call-in talk show last week someone dismissed the hype given to a father holding his twin children gassed to death in Syria. His reasoning was they were just two while many more children have been killed in our country.
“Lord Jesus, cry out to us, ‘IT IS FINISHED!’ Cry out to us with a piercing tone that moves us to find ways to love one another knowing that we are all loved by You!”
“Cry out to us, until we are moved to raise the plea:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all. (Isaac Watts)
Two cries from Calvary. “Save us, O Jesus, from the first and raise us to the second that moves us to answer:
‘Thanks be to God for Your unspeakable Gift!’” AMEN!