Three Hours Devotion - Holy Week Addresses 1975
Good Friday: No 6
If the work of salvation has been finished, the first Good Friday had not ended. the providence of God was still overlapping the human events of the day. But now the darkness, which had shrouded the world since the sixth hour, began to give way to the first glimmer of Easter light. For the first fruits of the death of Christ, and of the rending of the veil between God and man which that death had brought about, were the words of the centurion who stood facing the dead Christ. “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, Truly this man was a son of God.”
Long ago, when the first covenant between God and man had been made at the time of the first deliverance of the people of God, Moses had gone up into another Mount, and there he had spoken face to face with God as a man speaks with his friend. But no one else - had been allowed so much as to set a foot on the Mount in case they died. Now - a final upside-downing - in this new Mount of God where a new law of love and self-sacrifice had been given to man, one of those who lorded it over the gentiles, a heathen centurion, a man whose profession was to destroy, to kill, to hate, one who had taken a full part in the murder of Christ, stood face to face with God and did not die; for it was God who had died. Truly, this was a son of God. Since the work of God was complete in the death of Christ, the results of it in terms of salvation could begin at once, even before Easter. No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Christ pours out his spirit in death, and the centurion confesses faith in Jesus as the son of God; he sees, and believes whereas before he had been blind and unbelieving. Thus be becomes the first fruit of the universal harvest which is to come. There is no longer a barrier between God and man. The veil has been rent. There is no more distinction between gentile and Jew, bond and free, rich and poor, black and white. Where all had sinned and fallen short of the Law of Moses, now salvation is open to all who confess faith in Christ crucified. “Lift up your eyes”, Jesus had said, “for the fields are already white to the harvest”. Now the harvest has begun.
In the evening, when the Sabbath is beginning - the day when God rested from his labours as Christ is now resting - a Jew follows the centurion down the harvest road of courage and faith. “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was himself looking for the Kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate; and asked for the Body of Jesus”. And so, ever since, men and women, lost in the respected councils of this world, but secretly looking for the Kingdom of God, have been given courage by the death of Jesus to come to his Body, the Church, asking for the Body of Christ and for his Blood. For today and for ever the door of the Kingdom stands open to all who believe in their hearts and confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord. It is a narrow door into the Kingdom, and a strait road which leads to life. The door is the Body of Christ, as the Temple is the Body of Christ, and the road to life is death to self and faith in God: the road trodden by Jesus. But to all who know that in themselves dwells no good thing, and who therefore turn for salvation to Christ, he gives his Body and his Blood of the new promise: the promise of peace and life. Thus we preach Christ crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The gospel has more to say, Christ no more to do. The work of God is complete, and the judgement of God has overturned all human thinking and all human judgements. “From now on”, said St Paul, “we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.”
A new creation is not too strong a phrase. On the first day of the old creation, God created light out of the darkness. On the first day of the new creation, God called Jesus back from the dead, creating life out of the tomb, salvation from destruction, redemption from the wreckage of sin and violence. And on the same first day, the first day of the Church, God created faith and understanding out of the fear and failure of the disciples and the women: as, please God, he creates faith and understanding out of our fear and our failure. One day, for each of us, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light. But Christ is risen to die no more, and the Church is risen with him, indestructible through the love and mercy of God.
Behold I am coming soon, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end….The Spirit and the Bride say Come : And let him who hears say, Come ! And let him who is thirsty come. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon”. Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus. The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the Saints. Amen.