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He died that we might live

Friday, March 29, 2002

Good Friday. Fr. Aelred Connelly preaches on the Passion of the Servant of the Lord.

Isaiah tells us of the suffering servant: Ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried ... By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself. All the sufferings and sorrows and faults of humanity are in the cup of suffering accepted by Jesus in the garden. Before he is seized and bound like a lamb for the slaughter, he says to Peter, "Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?" Having been reproved for his violence, Peter denies that he is Jesus' follower. Jesus rejects the legitimacy of the violence of the kingdoms of the world. Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered. He has rejected the way of Peter's sword, the slap of the High Priest's servant, and his degradation of the crown of thorns and the imperial purple. This shows forth the caricature that human power often is. The source of all power is from above, from God; hence the irony of Pilate's words to the people, 'Here is your King.' They respond, 'We have no King but Caesar.' God's gift of the real King is given into the power of this world, and is given back to the people by Caesar1s representative, who has tried to free him: So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. Jesus has been given back to us so many times. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we have a supreme High Priest who has felt our weaknesses with us. Let us be confident in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help. It was one of the high priestly family who said that it was better for one man to die for the people. And so Jesus dies for all people. He dies as King of the Jews, yet the notice on the cross was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. He is King of all languages, peoples, times and places. He gives his all for all, even his clothes: they shared out my clothing among them. They cast lots for my clothes. As he dies naked on the cross, his seamless undergarment is a sign of the seamless undergarment of humanity in its suffering and redemption. He gives us to each other at the foot of the cross: This is your son ... this is your mother. He who has freely taken on the cup of suffering humanity, drinks the final vinegar from the hyssop stick: after Jesus had taken the vinegar, he said, 'It is accomplished,' and bowing his head, he gave up his Spirit. With the vinegar he takes to himself the full cup of human suffering and sorrow and sin, and gives forth from his unbroken body the life-giving draught of new life. Instead of breaking his legs, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water. In his death he has given us the life-giving water of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. He has died that we might live. We are reminded of the water welling up to eternal life offered to the Samaritan woman, the sight of faith given to the blind man, and the life given back to Lazarus. We are also led back to the mount of Transfiguration, and see that the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets comes with Christ's transformation into glory, which for John takes place on the cross. They shall look on the one they have pierced. The body of Jesus is taken away and laid in a tomb in a garden. We are now left with the bare cross, on which to contemplate. God's gift to us has gone into the grave. We are left to view the shameful gibbet of death outside the Law and Temple, and Jerusalem itself, on the place of the Skull. We come as sinners to the one who surrendered himself to death, and let himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many, and praying all the time for sinners. As sinners we face the cross, and in the words of today's psalm (30), we trust in the Lord: Let your face shine on your servant. Save me in your love. Be strong, let your heart take courage, all who hope in the Lord. Our hope is in the God of Love, who brought Jesus from death to life, and our hope is in him.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Hebrews 4:14-16


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