Good Friday April 15, 2022 by Suzanne G. Bowles, Ph.D.
You have probably heard it said that Trinity Sunday is the most difficult day on which to preach. But I believe it’s Good Friday. The events of the day are just so overwhelming that human language itself seems inadequate to describe it. Jesus, God incarnate, God in the flesh, dies on the cross for us, for our sins, not His, because He doesn’t have any. And, He’s not Superman disguised as Clark Kent. He doesn’t pretend to suffer just to keep up the pretense. He actually suffers and dies. God dies! We can’t even wrap our feeble minds around it.
We heard John’s gospel today, which doesn’t mention it, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that for the three hours prior to His death “darkness covered the land.” Some translators suggest the word for land refers to the whole earth, i.e. not just Jerusalem. The whole earth suffers mysterious darkness for three hours. Matthew says “the earth shook, the rocks split.” An earthquake, or something like it? Bodies came out of tombs and, as Matthew tells us, “they went into the holy city and appeared to many,” i.e. there were eyewitnesses.
And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The significance of the curtain in the Temple was that it separated ordinary worshipping Jews from the Holy of Holies, that section where only the High Priest was permitted to go only once a year to offer sacrifices for the sins of all people. We have Old Testament descriptions as well as non-biblical evidence of the curtain’s size – probably about 60 feet high and 4 inches thick. It symbolizes that ordinary worshippers are separated from God because of their sins. When Jesus dies that separation ends. The curtain is essentially destroyed. The Holy of Holies, that place where God was thought to dwell, is now wide open!
My point is this – Jesus’s death is a monumental event and has immediate physical effects that eyewitnesses see. In a couple of days these events are overtaken by the Resurrection. But on that Friday afternoon this would be what people are talking about. It must have been scary, to say the least.
OK, what’s the takeaway here? I certainly can’t do it justice with paltry human vocabulary, but I want to leave you with one thought – God incarnate – Emmanuel, God with us, as we say in Advent – died on the cross for you and me. That’s how much He loves us. Amen.