Peter was right that day. I was shocked when he stopped me in my angry tracks, but I knew he was quite right. Perhaps it is only a good friend who can stop us and call us back to normality, I was avoiding my own personal pain. There were indeed legitimate reasons for my passionate feelings about my then work situation. Yet they were out of hand. For they had been exaggerated by a good deal of personal emotions which were about other things and experiences in my life and which had not then been properly digested. So that day Peter set me on the path to being freed from them..
Have you ever had an experience like that? Or have you ever realised, perhaps usually in hindsight, that something you have been saying or doing is actually prompted by other things than the outward ones you have been pretending? Have you ever acted or been angry beyond the legitimate immediate cause? It is a common human failing. It is also magnified when we are infected by mob hysteria or the fears and angers of a group. For, as individuals, we may struggle to keep a true sense of ourselves. When we come together in passionate groups, things can get even more out of hand. This it seems is at the heart of our Gospel – our Good News – story – on Good Friday.
Jesus is crucified. Why? For a range of reasons, but especially because both individuals and individuals as groups and as nations could not cope with him and the challenges with which he presented them. Some of those challenges had a definite political and religious edge, which is why the political and religious leaders of his day felt compelled to rid themselves of him. Jesus was not political in the sense being a straightforward political activist, and certainly not in terms of what we call party politics. God does not belong to any political party and God transcends our limited human politics. Yet God in Jesus challenged the political and religious leaders of his day not just to pay lip service to great biblical ideas like justice, freedom, healing and peace. He called them to action, beginning with the poor and the outcast. It was unpopular then and still is today. Jesus’ challenge however went much much further.
Jesus’ challenge is above all to our heart and will. If we allow God in to transform our heart and will then everything else really follows naturally. For it is no good being right about justice, freedom and peace unless we embody justice, freedom and peace and practise them. Like my angry self in Sydney in the past, we all have emotions and experiences which require acceptance, forgiveness and healing, so that we can live fully in the freedom and fair go of God. This is the challenge and the promise of the cross of Christ. Can we let our suffering, our painful emotions and experiences, go to Jesus? Can we let go of our passions, and allow them to be transformed into new light by God’s grace? Can we place them at the foot of the Cross and ask for peace? This is the invitation of Good Friday.
It is an odd thing in worldly terms. The Bible shows us that Jesus did some amazing things. He preached the good news of God’s presence with us. He set people free from their fears. He healed people. He left behind some of the most profound ethical and spiritual teaching of all time. In his presence all kinds of extraordinary happenings occurred. Yet the most important thing about Jesus was not so much what he did for others as what was done to him, and how he handled it. For Jesus did not run from death, he allowed death to happen to him, and, in the way he did so, God’s new life broke through.
The Cross is at the heart of Christian Faith because, ultimately, Christian Faith, like the life of Jesus, is not so much about what we do and say, as it is about what we let God do and say through us. For it is through our pain and sufferings that God above all works. Resurrection, new life, is the ultimate Christian truth. The Cross, pain and suffering, are not the end. Yet resurrection, new life, can never be separated from the Cross. For it is through pain and suffering that love works. God’s Love is above all shown to us in the Cross of Christ.
I am praying for my friend Peter at this time because he is going through his own journey of crucifixion. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are going through something similar, or through grief, loss and pain of other kinds. I am praying for my friend Peter because I know that God is with him in his pain and suffering, as God is with all our own and others’ suffering. This is what we see today upon the Cross: God, in Jesus, in solidarity with all our pain and suffering, taking it upon himself and asking us to trust and hope, even beyond hope. For, above all, I am praying for my friend Peter, because I know that God can use his pain and suffering for good, for love. Peter has done some amazing things in his life but it is also in what is being done to him that God will triumph. He knows that. That is what he taught me. That is what Jesus seeks to teach us again today.
So let us bring our pain and suffering to the Cross. Let us bring our sins and our shames, our hurts and our hates, justified and unjustified. Let us bring our weaknesses and our sense of powerlessness. And let us trust, that in this – in the strength of God’s forgiveness – we are both accepted and will be transformed. For beyond the Cross lies Resurrection, beyond all suffering lies lasting hope, beyond death lies new life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
by Jon Inkpin, for Good Friday 2016