Amen. The word means “so be it.” How do we say “amen” on Good Friday? How do we say “so be it” to Jesus’ death on the cross?
We know that we have a part in Jesus’ death. We kill Jesus in apathy, lack of prayer time, lack of those times when we listen to our Lord. We kill Jesus in overindulging ourselves, in not feeding our neighbor, and in approaching our faith in a casual manner. We come to church “knowing” that “it” is always here, choosing to forget that it is WE who are the church. The church is not here unless we are. We Christians fail as often as our Israelite ancestors did.
On many days, Jesus’ suffering and our role in the crucifixion are in the background of our lives. Today we are face to face with a spiritual darkness of which we do not want to be a part. But here we are. Yesterday we stripped our worship area of our signs of Jesus, the crosses and the altar linens. We took away the things that help us worship: prayer books and kneeling cushions. We even took away the crosses that symbolize the one cross that saves us.
Coming back into such a barren worship space is shocking. Where is Jesus? Jesus is outside of Jerusalem, outside of our sight, hanging on a cross. We have whipped him, stripped him, mocked him, and left him on his cross to die. Jesus is dead.
On this most somber of days, our darkest hour, we practice our knowledge that Jesus is still with us. Although we have abandoned Him, He has not left us. We celebrate the Eucharist tonight so that we know – and experience – that Jesus is with us, even in death. The Savior who was not saved has not abandoned us. The love that God shows us in His Son is so strong that it never leaves. Not even today.
We are not in charge of Good Friday. God, through Jesus, shapes this day. Jesus walks out to meet the authorities who have come to arrest him. Jesus questions Pilate, then “puts him in his place:” (O. Wesley Allen, Jr., at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=4/6/2012) “You would have no power over me unless it had been given from above” (19:11). Those do not sound like the words of a man on trial and about to be put to death.
Jesus carries his own cross; there is no Simon of Cyrene today. Jesus is not defeated.
And in some of the most powerful words we ever hear, “It is finished,” as Jesus announces his own death. The authorities, who are accustomed to breaking the legs of those being crucified in order to hasten their deaths have no need to break the legs of Jesus. He is already dead, in the fulfillment of Scripture, not in accordance with everyday life.
This day called good Friday is somber and sobering. Good Friday IS good: it is not Jesus’ funeral. We are not attending Jesus’ funeral today. We are not witnessing a failure, but a triumph. Jesus’ death on the cross is a triumph over sin. It is part of journey in which Jesus triumphs over death.
So while we wait in darkness, in a stark and sobering place, we do so in the knowledge that God is in charge, that our failures are not God’s failure, that our sins do not rule the world. In full knowledge of the coming resurrection, just for today, while we wait and pray, we can say, “so be it.” Amen.