Tag Archives: Good Friday

What is Holy Saturday?

The Passion Week provides diverse theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. The royal procession illicit shouts of benediction, but concludes only a few days later with shouts of crucifixion as the king is hung on a tree.

The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah provides a new commandment to love one another just as He loved us. The newness of the commandments is not an indication that love was not revealed prior (Lev. 19), but that love is now incarnate in the person of love, Jesus Christ. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the offensive words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount, his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death (Phil. 2)But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.

After fulfilling the great Davidic promise in Psalm 22, our Lord rests from his labors in the tomb. Whatever may have happened in those days before his resurrection, we know that Christ’s work as the unblemished offering of love was finished.

The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly, Holy Saturday. On this day, our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:

God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)

The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.

As Alexander Schmemann observed:

Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that the darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son were only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.

The End of the Serpent’s Sting

There is a venomous snake in the garden. While the great Messiah and his disciples enter the garden, a certain snake-like figure named Judas knows precisely where the faithful are. He enters the garden knowing that this was a place of constant fellowship and peace. But Judas is not a man of peace and his fellowship with the Messiah has been broken. He is now a man at war and his loyalty is with the darkness.

In the Garden of Eden, the Great Serpent entered the garden to bring about chaos; to tempt the first Adam. Indeed he was successful. The first Adam failed in his loyalty to Yahweh, being deceived by the serpent in the garden, and thus, thrusting all mankind into a state of sin and misery. Now in John 18, the New Serpent enters the garden. He is possessed by the same devil that possessed the serpent in Genesis. It is this precise battle that is unfolding before us in this text. The question is: “Who owns the garden?”

Does Judas with his new found commitment to darkness and evil own the garden or does Jesus own the garden? As the text reveals to us we see that Judas, the son of perdition, seems to have the upper hand in this sacred dispute. In verse 12 we read:

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.

Jesus is arrested and bound. They take him out of the garden bound like a defeated enemy. Now, in every conceivable scenario, this would be the historical determination that Jesus has lost. But if the Messiah is to bring this unshakable and unmovable kingdom with his coming, then how does this binding, this apparent defeat in the garden connect with this glorious kingdom? The answer to this question is: paradoxically. The coming of the kingdom is paradoxical. The kingdom does not come in the way and in the expression that many expected.

Now if the kingdom of God comes paradoxically, in a way unknown to the first century, then there may be a different way of understanding this garden scene. In this text, Jesus is not being bound because of defeat; he is being bound because of victory. Jesus’ arrest is his release. His arrest is not his binding, it may appear to be, but it is ultimately the binding of the evil one, the father of lies, Satan himself. This is why the gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus is the One who bound the strong man. He is the One who arrested the Serpent and dragged him out of the garden. Jesus owns the garden, not Judas or His master, Satan.

This arrest and this binding of Jesus in the garden is not a plan gone awry, it is exactly what has been planned. In one sense, this arrest is the cosmic Trinitarian conspiracy against the kingdoms of this world. When evil leaders and governments think they have the Son of Man trapped, he fools them. As Psalm 2 says, “God laughs at their plans.” The conspiracy of the cross is that the cross is Christ’s sword to defeat evil. But the serpent does not know this. He is virtually blinded to the Messianic plan and nothing will stop Jesus from conquering evil and bringing in a new world, a new creation. The garden belongs to him, because the garden is where his people gather, and eat, and fellowship. The garden is the sacred space, the place of peace. Make no mistake, we are a warring people, but we war against the enemies of Messiah. In the garden, the King, Master, and Messiah says, “the gates of hell shall not prevail. Death dies once and for all and victory will come and we will celebrate it this Sunday. Today, though we fast, it is only a prelude to our coming feast. Jesus’ death marks the end of the serpent’s sting of death.

Reflection on Good Friday by N.T. Wright

For reflection on Good Friday, here’s an excerpt from Christians at the Cross by N.T. Wright:

“Finished.” “Accomplished.” “Completed.” Jesus’ last word, which sums it all up. Part of its meaning is that everything that had gone before . . . has now come together. This is where it was all going; this is what it was all about.

Part of its meaning is that in Jesus’ world that word “finished” was what you wrote on a bill when it had been settled: “Paid in full!” But underneath these is the meaning John intends, I believe, most deeply. When God the Creator made his wonderful world, at the end of the sixth day he finished it. He completed his work. Now, on the Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus has completed the work of redeeming the world. With his shameful, chaotic, horrible death he has gone to the very bottom, to the darkest and deepest place of the ruin, and has planted there the sign that says “Rescued.” It is the sign of love, the love of the creator for his ruined creation, the love of the saviour for his ruined people. Yes, of course, it all has to be worked out. The victory has to be implemented. But it’s done; it’s completed; it’s finished . . .

Now here in this community, and in this church, there are plenty of Marys and Johns, plenty of people for whom life isn’t going to be the same again. Our job is to stand and wait at the foot of the cross, and to see what fresh word may come to us concerning the way forward, the way of becoming a community again . . .

Good Friday is the point at which God comes into our chaos, to be there with us in the middle of it and to bring us his new creation. Let us pause and give thanks, and listen for his words of love and healing.

N.T. Wright, Christians at the Cross: Finding Hope in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus (Ijamsville, Md.: The Word Among Us Press, 2007), 57–58.

Maundy Thursday Homily

People of God, this is Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin mandatum which refers to the “commandment” that our Lord gave to His disciples“to love one another.”

This short section in John’s Gospel is right in between some gigantic events in the life of Jesus, but ultimately there is truth to the idea that this short narrative is perhaps one of the most important of Jesus’ discourses.

Maundy Thursday takes us to that Last Supper our Lord had with the disciples. This Supper was marked by this profound sense that our Lord was only hours from his death at the cross.

The great traitor of history, Judas, had traded his soul for a few coins, and as Judas sat with the other disciples at that last Supper, our Lord described precisely the nature of Judas’ character. Judas was corrupted and unclean, and instead of finding in Jesus the source of his healing, Judas sought to betray the Son of Man with a kiss. Augustine once wrote that once the apostate and unclean one had departed, all that remained …continued with their cleanser.

Of course, this theme of cleansing is a very powerful one in John. Jesus is the priest, and the priest cleanses the temple, and the world of corruption. It was important that as they gathered to feast on this last supper before the New World would come after the resurrection of Jesus, that the disciples, the representatives of God, were clean in body and spirit; in motive and loyalty. Jesus did not want his representatives to betray or corrupt the Kingdom mission.

This is why when Judas departed the Son of Man was glorified. He was glorified so that He was prepared to undergo what was ahead of him in the cruel tree, because the last seed of corruption was gone. Of course the disciples were not perfect, but apart from Judas, they all remained faithful to their Lord until the end. They were cleansed by the Cleanser. And as Judas departs, as corruption departs in human flesh, Jesus now addresses His faithful and loyal servants.

We see tenderness of Jesus displayed as He addresses His disciples as Little Children. For Jesus, they were His own. They belonged in His kingdom. And because they were His He had to protect them from what was ahead. What was ahead was something only He could undergo. “Where I am going, you cannot come,” Jesus said.

But though you cannot go with me, I will give you this new commandment that you are to cling to in life, and as you continue to spread my message: that you love one another. But if know your Pentateuch well, you will note that in Leviticus 19:18 our Lord had already said that you are “to love your neighbor as yourself.” So why is this a new commandment? This is a new commandment because unlike Leviticus, here Jesus says “love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The difference is God became flesh and literally loved His disciples in word and deed. And the disciples now have the example of God in the flesh of what love truly looks like. Yes, it is a new commandment: Love one another. But when Jesus says Do this, it is because He has already demonstrated for us what it looks like.

Love is the center of Christian discipleship. How will the world know who we are? It should not be because of our intellectual expertise, or our professional accomplishments, but rather by the love we have for one another at our tables, living rooms, workplaces, and in the place of worship.

The Christian history has only triumphed because God has loved us in His Son, and Christians have reacted to that love by loving one another. Without love there is no Christian faith; without love we are noise-makers, clanging cymbals, self-delusional religionists, but when we obey this new commandment, the world sees us and they will know that we are disciples of the Crucified King, Jesus Christ.

In The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good Friday Homily: The Politics of Good Friday

Homily: People of God, the story of Good Friday is that it was by a tree that Adam fell in the garden and by a tree Adam is restored.[1]

We see this restoration unfolding for us in the Gospel of St. John. In the narrative, Pilate represents the evil empire that conspires against the Lord’s anointed (Ps. 2), but he does not collude in isolation; he conspires with the Jews of the day. These are two manifestations of politics in the Passion Week: the Romans with their propensity to elevate kings to the status of gods and the First-Century Jews with their propensity to elevate Maccabean characters as messianic figures. Both groups with their distinct ideologies share the same contempt for Jesus. The Romans despise Him because He is a threat to the peace of the empire; the Jews hate Him because He equates Himself to Yahweh. There is a back and forth dilemma facing the political powers of this world. “What do we do with this man?” “Do we crucify him; do we let Him go; will He anger Caesar; will He draw to Himself members of our political party?”[2] Throughout the Gospels we often hear of the confusion and uncertainty about the nature of Jesus. But by this point, the leaders of the day have realized that Jesus is no ordinary man; that He is not just claiming to be the Messiah, but also a kingly substitute to the current selection. After this realization, their tone changes quite drastically. Their plans of execution and murder suddenly become quite concrete.  This is the politics of Good Friday:

“The Word of God, who was with God and was God, the Only-Begotten Son, takes flesh and dwells among us, and in response, the most sophisticated religious leaders of the ancient world join forces with the most powerful political leaders of the ancient world to murder Him. God enters His creation, and His creatures concentrate all their ingenuity, passion, piety, and power to destroy Him. “Now is the judgment of this world,” Jesus had said. While the world thinks it is passing judgment on Jesus, it is really judging itself.” [3]

What is distinctive about the politics of Good Friday is not that Jesus despises power; after all, He will receive all power and authority in heaven and earth[4] from the Father, rather the uniqueness of Good Friday is that power comes through death, and the declaration of His kingship does not appear in the splendor of a Roman coronation, but in the horror of a tree.

When Pilate handed over Jesus to the Jews and mockingly stated: “Behold your King!” little did he know that the destruction of his own kingdom now was certain, and the genesis and emergence of an everlasting kingdom was already taking place.

Unlike Adam, Jesus did not fail to crush the Serpent.[5] On a tree, Adam fell, but through a tree, a New Adam and a New Humanity is resurrected.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Inspired by Peter Leithart.

[2] See the Pharisees’ declaration in John 12:19.

[3] “Peter J. Leithart ” Blog Archive ” Good Friday Homily.” Leithart.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011 <http://www.leithart.com/2008/03/21/good-friday-homily-3/>.

[4] Matthew 28:18-20.

[5] Romans 16:20