Friday, April 10, 2009
Good Friday: By His wounds we are healed
Sentenced to die on the cross, Jesus was made to suffer the worst type of punishment reserved only for the worst type of criminals.
Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus was scourged, beaten with rods, and a crown of thorns pressed into His skull. Aside from the extreme physical pain He endured, Jesus must have felt so alone seeing Himself abandoned on the cross by almost all His apostles, save for His mother and three women, along with John. After a few hours of agonizing emotional and physical pain amid the jeers and insults of those who came to witness His humiliation, Jesus expired.
Pilate had publicly heralded Jesus “King of the Jews’’ no doubt to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees. Ironically, it was this very title “awarded’’ by Pilate to Jesus that gave Him and the Romans a reason to consider Jesus a threat. Jesus had answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world …’’ So Pilate said to Him, “Then You are a King?’’ Jesus answered, “You say I am a King …’’ (Jn 18:36-37). On the other hand, the Jews expected a Messiah who would come as king to establish God’s reign for them. They wanted, therefore, a political leader who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Little did they understand what kind of Messianic kingship Jesus claimed to have.
Jesus’ only power is the power to attract, to draw us towards Him and not to force Himself on us. If for Him, “there is no sorrow like my sorrow’’ (Lam 1:12), it is because Christ on the cross is God who continues to suffer in love despite humanity’s continued refusal to be loved, our withdrawal into ourselves from our union with God who has become like one of us.
It would be hard, indeed, to see the cross of Christ as a sign of victory if we are not able to realize that it was not just the mere endurance of the suffering of Jesus that saved us, but rather the love and forgiveness of Jesus that is the source of our salvation. Jesus’ act of sacrificing His life was full of compassion, which in its simplest terms means to “suffer with love.’’ We can find no greater proof of God’s love for us that the willing sacrifice of His Son Jesus who died on the cross for love of us.
The cross begins to make sense the very moment we see that love is more powerful than anger, hatred, and death. The cross of Christ, far from being a decoration or just an external badge of identity, is the very substance of our pain and struggle. It tells us there is hope for us even at our very worst and seemingly trying and helpless situations. It extends beyond us both ends of the scale: It measures our life and gives meaning to it.