The hinge point, the crux of our Christian faith

Mary Copping, 19 April 2019

Isaiah 52: 13–53: 12; Matthew 27: 33–54

Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, but more than that, it’s about being with Jesus at the cross – staying with him as his mother and John stayed. The disciples had all fled, perhaps for fear of being associated with him or perhaps because they couldn’t bear to watch Jesus, their master and friend, go through such unmerited suffering. So we stay with him and see his suffering; perhaps suffer with him as we go through our own personal suffering or that of others.

How hard it is to see someone close to us suffer – we sometimes wish it could be us. Was that what Jesus’ mother was thinking as she watched her innocent son suffer and die on that cruel cross, perhaps recalling the words of Simeon: ‘A sword will pierce your own soul’? ‘But why did this have to happen to my precious son, who only did what was good? Why not me? He had so much more to give, so much more to do. Why, God, why?’

We wish we could get to Easter Sunday, wish we didn’t have to go through the pain, wish we didn’t have to see so much pain in the world. But Jesus calls us all to the cross; this is his way, this is the way of all who follow him. There is no resurrection without the cross. There’s a Good Friday for all of us.

There is much mystery about the cross. Why was Jesus so powerless at his greatest need? Why had Jesus, full of wisdom, grace and truth come to Jerusalem where there was such danger for him? Why did he allow himself, the Son of God, to get into such a terrible situation, to be vulnerable, knowing that the Jewish leaders were after him?

And yet, ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’. Not just his words but his very life are a parable, a picture of what that means. His death on the cross brought life. And his decision made in the garden of Gethsemane, when he struggled with the will of God, sweating drops of blood, shows his true humanity. Then he totally surrendered to his Father.

Easter is indeed about the empty tomb. But first the cross. The cross perhaps doesn’t fit into our picture of how things ought to be. It didn’t fit into anyone’s picture back then either. But Good Friday is the road to Easter Sunday.

Easter is indeed about the empty tomb. But first the cross.

It was the road for Jesus; it is the road for us. As we see the suffering in the world, see godly people suffer, we can turn to the cross of Christ and bring this suffering to his suffering, bring ourselves in surrender to him at the foot of his cross.

We know in our heads and from the Bible that God will never leave us nor forsake us, but it often doesn’t feel that way. The phrase that Jesus uttered on the cross – ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ – how many times have we thought this, spoken this, shouted this at God as we have faced difficult situations in our lives? And yet Jesus also said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ – a complete trust and surrender to his Father.

Jesus had warned his disciples about this time; he had told the disciples that this was to come. In Mark 9 we’re told that he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again’. They heard it but did not understand – did not want to know, perhaps. At one point, Peter even said to him ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you’, but Jesus reprimanded him; he needed support from his disciples on the way to the cross. As we gaze on the cross of Christ, do we say, ‘No Lord, this shouldn’t happen to you’?

Jesus embraced his destiny by faith. He knew the Father’s promise of resurrection, but death still lay ahead of him. And death was still death, even for Jesus. It was his trust in the Father’s promise that caused him to give his very life.

From the first letter to the Corinthians ‘For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. Watching the Son of God hanging there on that tree would seem pointless, foolish, painful and unnecessary. But we in the shadow of the cross know that this is the hinge point, the crux of our Christian faith. Christ died for our sins; in some way Christ on the cross brought us back to God, enabled us to have that relationship with him, bridged the gap between us and God, our sins forgiven, showing the extent of God’s love for us.

However we see the cross and whatever it means to each one of us, today we stand with Jesus, in his pain and suffering and say, ‘Thank you for all that you have done for us on the cross. Help us to walk with you through to resurrection and beyond, as your precious children, trusting in God’s eternal goodness and love. Amen.’