A Reflection for Good Friday, April 2020
The Reverend Canon Catherine Ascah
St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Smiths Falls
This is the day when the highest political authority washed its hands, the exalted religious
leaders connived and manipulated, the common people turned accusers and haters, the
circle of close friends fled, the right-hand man betrayed, the self-styled best friend forever
denied. This is as awful as it gets, for faith, government, friendship, loyalty, love. It’s not
Good Friday. It’s terrible Friday, the worst day of all time, when we see the absolute horror
of who we are, and the absolute finality of death, not just for the clumsy, the fragile and the
foolish, like us, but even for our greatest hope, the good, the beautiful the true – Jesus.
But the cross is not just the moment when we see the truth of who we are. It’s also the
moment when we see the truth of who God is.
Wells, Samuel. Hanging by a Thread: The Questions of the Cross.
Canterbury Press: Norwich, UK, 2016 pp 34-35.
In John’s Gospel, the crucifixion scene differs significantly from the account in the other
Gospels. There is a nobility to Jesus. Gone is the anguished prayer in the garden. Gone is
the anguished cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” No, in
John’s Gospel you get “Mother, behold your son. (Disciple), behold your mother.” You get
“I thirst.” And you get “It is finished.”
Today is a day when we get to stare at the cross and come face to face with who we are,
where we come face to face with the absolute finality of death and we are left dumb, or so
shaken we can do little more than weep.
But as Sam Wells points out, the cross is not just the moment when we see the truth of who
we are. It is also the moment when we see the truth of who God is.
God so loved the world, writes John in one of his later epistles. God so loved the world, that
to reconcile humanity who had utterly broken its covenantal relationship, God entered into
the very midst of our story by becoming human and living and dying with us so there could
never be that gulf again.
Many feel guilty on Good Friday. I’m not sure that is a helpful thing to feel. We are finite
creatures, and sinners of God’s own redeeming. I think it is fair to feel remorse at those
things we have done or left undone that have damaged ourselves or others or the earth. I
think it is fair to feel a sense grief and pain and mourning. But Good Friday shows us that
God’s love is unconditional, that hope is indestructible, and that redemption is possible.
The powers of government, religion, individual and collective greed did their worst on that
Good Friday. And the power of God did its best, by taking all that the world had to throw at
him, every injustice, every atrocity, and said: “I am here with you. No matter how bad it
gets for you in life, know that I know. Know that I am with you in it.”
Good Friday shows us that there is hope for us no matter where we find ourselves. There is
no darkness or pain that we can experience that is impervious from God’s presence. And in
these strange days of pandemic as we grapple with the loss of things we thought were ours,
thought were in our control, then Jesus on the cross may well be the Jesus we need.