Good Friday — St. Matthew Cathedral
Saint John’s account of the Passion of Our Lord began in the garden of Gethsemane. There Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by a band of soldiers. There Saint Peter, trying to save Jesus, drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told him to put his sword into its scabbard and said to Peter: “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Jesus was ready, ready to fulfill His mission, ready to drink the cup of suffering. His love for us was so great that He went forward and allowed Himself to be arrested. He went forward to suffer because He knew its saving power. He wanted to save us. He was obedient to the Father, united to His Father in His love for us.
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as He submitted to the guards who bound him and then took Him to the house of Annas where He was struck by one of the temple guards. Yes was Jesus’ answer as He was then taken to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Yes was Jesus answer as He was then taken to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate.
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as he endured the hostility of these interrogations, and then the horrific scourging and crowning with thorns. Yes was Jesus’ answer as He heard the hateful cries of the people “Crucify him, crucify him!”
“Shall I drink the cup that the Father gave me?” Yes was Jesus’ answer as He carried the cross to the Place of the Skull and was crucified. Jesus accepted all the pain and humiliation of the passion, the abandonment, and the horror of death by crucifixion. He accepted the suffering as the will of the Father for the salvation of the world. The Master of the Universe, the Son of God, freely offered His life in such a painful and humiliating manner to redeem us. He did all this bravely and purposely out of love for you and me. No one has manifested this degree and quality of love in all human history. Jesus demonstrates sacrificial love beyond anything that has ever been seen or imagined.
Completely innocent, Jesus carried our guilt, allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant who was “pierced for our offenses and crushed for our sins.” As Isaiah prophesied, He was “like a lamb led to the slaughter.” In fact, notice that the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, like they broke the legs of the two crucified with Him. This may seem like a bare historical fact, but it had deep meaning. Jesus died like a sacrificial Passover lamb, whose bones were not to be broken. Jesus died as the Lamb of God who, by His death, takes away the sins of the world.
Let us contemplate today the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice. All human sin, yours and mine and the sins of all people through the ages caused Our Lord’s suffering. Jesus carried the burden of the sins of us all. In doing so, He brought about our liberation, our redemption. Only He could do this because He was God, the only-begotten Son. His love overcomes the evil of every sin. The depth and intensity of His suffering on Good Friday is incomparable since the man who suffered is actually God. Only He who is God from God could do this, could be capable of bearing the sins of the world.