The Very Rev. Randy Hollerith: All for the Sake of Love
Oh Lord, uphold Thou me that I may uplift thee. Amen.
Today is a day of sadness, a day when evil seemingly triumphs over good. Today is a day when all that is hoped for dies on the cross.
It’s hard to resist the urge to skip Good Friday and get on to Sunday. It’s hard to resist the urge to water down the pain of this day and think rather of the promise and the joy of Easter. But we can’t ignore today. We can’t skip Good Friday any more than we can sidestep the reality of pain and suffering in our own lives. We must face it head on. Because without this Good Friday of sorrow there is no Easter. Without His death there is no resurrection.
On this day, Jesus laid down his life for all of us. He was beaten, humiliated, and stripped of his dignity. He took upon himself the sin of the world, that by his wounds we might be healed. Now some people take great comfort in the fact that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him on Good Friday and the results his sacrifice would bring about. Jesus says quite clearly to his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer and die and in three days rise again. Many like the fact that Jesus knew his fate and God’s larger plan. But I think otherwise. I take comfort in the possibility that Jesus didn’t know what the outcome of this day would be. I take comfort in the possibility that in Jesus, who was both fully God and fully human, there was room for uncertainty, even room for doubt. I take comfort in the possibility that Jesus gave himself up to death on the cross, not because he knew the victory God would bring about on Easter Sunday, but because he was faithful to whatever his Father might ask of him. I take comfort in that possibility because it is so human. Don’t all of us, at one time or another, face suffering without knowing why we suffer or what that suffering means for our future?
There is an old story about a little girl named Lisa who was very sick from a rare disease. Her only chance for recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who himself had miraculously survived the same illness, and had the antibodies to defend against it. The doctor explained the situation to the little boy and asked if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. The little boy hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “Yes, I’ll do it for Lisa.” As the transfusion began, the little boy lay in bed next to his sister and smiled. But as the transfusion progressed, his face grew pale, and his smile faded. You see, he didn’t understand. He thought that in giving blood to his sister he was being asked to give all his blood. In a trembling voice, he looked up at the doctor and asked, “Will I start to die right away?” The faith of a five-year-old boy, in a world full of cynicism and selfishness, tells us what lies at the heart of the way of the cross – self-emptying love absent of any insurance or guarantees. Jesus laid down his life not because he had to but because he loves us. As Bishop Curry said, “Good Friday is the entire gospel of God summed up in an act of sacrificial love. . . Jesus gave his life not to appease an angry deity. He gave his life not out of some selfish motive. He gave his life to show us what love looks like, the lengths that love will go. That love seeks the good, the welfare, and the well-being of others. He gave his life to show us that love is the way to life.”
I like this story as an analogy for Good Friday because to me it says so much about all the little Good Fridays that fill each of our personal lives. When the phone call comes in the middle of the night with the news that shocks us out of sleep, we can know that Christ has been there, that Jesus has known the pain of facing the unknown. When we sit in the hospital helplessly waiting for someone we love to emerge from surgery or recover from some illness, we can know that Christ has experienced our uncertainties and lived as we have with nothing to cling to but prayer and faith. When we wait by the phone to hear the result of a test or when the doctor sits us down and tells us that we have cancer, we can know that Christ has felt the same pit in his stomach and confronted the same fear of an unknown future. When we ourselves suffer in pain and breathlessly wait for that pain to end, we can know that we are not alone that Christ has suffered also. Good Friday isn’t just about Jesus giving his life, it is also about God in Christ going through every pain and tragedy a person can experience. Because Christ has done it before us, when the time comes, we need not face it alone.
So, what are we to do with all our sadness and grief from this past year, all our worry and exhaustion because children are being gunned down in their schools or thousands of innocent people in Ukraine are suffering because of war? On this day, we take it all to the cross. We place it all at the foot of the cross because suffering understands suffering. It is all too much to carry. We must put it down somewhere and today there is no empty tomb, today there is only the cross and the savior of the world who hangs upon it. He goes there willingly, and he takes with him all of it, every bit of death and disease, violence and killing, hatred and selfishness, pride, envy, greed – you name it – he takes all of it with him. He takes all of it and dies with it.
On Golgotha, God took an instrument of death, and made it the most powerful symbol of new life. In Jesus, God picked up the shattered pieces of a human life and made something holy out of them. The good news for you and me is that our Lord is still doing the same thing for all of us. Because of Jesus on the cross, when our lives shatter, they too can be made into something holy. Because of Jesus on the cross, the greatest suffering we will ever know has already been known. Because of Jesus on the cross, our sins are forgiven, and all those who have died are not lost, they are not trapped by death. On this day, Christ the crucified takes the full weight of the world upon his shoulders, to hang there, and breath his last. All for us, all for the sake of love. Amen.