The Majestic Death

April 15, 2022; Dr. John Stephenson
Good Friday.trial.jpg

GOOD FRIDAY 2022
St. John 19 & 20

 

Early on the morning of the first Good Friday, Jesus stood before the chief law enforcement officer of his land, accused of capital crimes. We marvel at our Lord’s calmness, His composure, His quiet dignity. Most people under threat of execution would plead their innocence, they would kneel down trembling before the judge, they would beg for mercy. But Jesus wasn’t in a talkative mood; Never before had Pilate encountered an accused criminal like this, and he never would again.

 

The great irony is that, as those two men stood face to face, Pilate was not the chief judge. He had the power of life and death over some people for a certain stretch of time. But all judgement over all people has been given by the Father to the Son of man. The humble, lowly Jesus has the keys of heaven and hell in His hands. And yet He, the final Judge of all mankind, let Himself be judged by a mere provincial governor. Jesus, who can condemn to hell, let Himself be condemned. His soul was heavy, His heart was sad, He suffered inner grief. And yet He was calm in the deepest depths of His soul as He faced a horrid death.

 

What majesty Jesus displayed as He went to His death. Many poor wretches have had execution thrust upon them against their will; they have screamed and raged and writhed against the torments inflicted on them. But Jesus, our God in human flesh, willed to suffer as He did; He accepted Pilate’s sarcasm, the hatred of His enemies, the mockery of Roman soldiers and Jewish priests, and even the way His executioners did Him to death.

 

None of us would willingly accept what our Lord and Saviour went through. What, then, are we to think? That He was crazy? In a way, Yes. What drove the Son of God into our flesh and onto the Cross in our place was not cool reason, but burning love, and love is often crazy. “God is love” is a startling sentence of Holy Scripture, a sentence written by John, who stood with Mary at the foot of the Cross. “God is love” means God is vulnerable, you can hurt Him, you can inflict pain on Him. The Son of God and Mary, the enfleshed Word, Jesus our Lord, let Himself be held down naked while huge sharp spikes were nailed through His hands and feet. The skin had already been flayed from His back; the rest of His body was bruised black and blue; His face was smashed in and a circle of thorns was dug into His brow. He took your place, He took mine. He let every ounce of blood drip onto the ground to atone for our sin, for the sin of the whole world. That’s how much He loves you, me, and all people from the beginning of time to the last day.

 

But don’t get it into your heads that you should mourn for Jesus today. Mourn for lost souls; mourn for your own sin. As for Jesus, adore Him, praise Him, serve Him, let love for Him flow from your heart onto your lips and into your life. His death was temporary; His life is eternal. Yet as He lives and reigns in heaven, the angels and saints can tell that He died once, for they see Him as the Lamb that was slain. And they see Him with five big, deep wounds in His body, two in His hands, two in His feet, and one in His side. And they praise Him as the victor over Satan, as the Saviour of mankind, as the King of angels and the Lord of the Church.

 

Jesus wants to dwell in your heart by faith today. Faith means that you know the basic facts about Him; it means that you accept what Scripture and Church teach about Him; and above all it means that you trust in Him in life and death. As you trust in Him, He dwells in you as the faithful Son of the Father and the humble Lord of love. As He dwells in you, He brings His five wounds of love with Him. He asks you to be humble, and to walk in His footsteps. He asks you to put Him first, others second, and yourself last. Think of this order, and you will spell the word “joy”. So don’t mourn Him today, but adore Him, receive Him, and love Him. Think of Him all this day, and think of Him as your living Lord who is closer to you than you are to yourself. Fast this day, be quiet, avoid all frivolity. And consider how you are going to love Him in return. As you do this, you will find that His wounds of love illumine the words of an old, familiar hymn:

 

Grant that I Your passion view

With repentant grieving,

Let me not bring shame to You

By unholy living.

How could I refuse to shun

Every sinful pleasure

Since for me God’s only Son

suffered without measure?