Good Friday, 29 March 2013

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Saint John 18:1 – 19:42


Background:  The Liturgy of Good Friday

On the second day of the Triduum (The Three Days) the simplicity of the Good Friday Liturgy has been anticipated the evening prior, on Maundy Thursday with the Stripping of the Altar, and the removal of the Reserved Sacrament to the Altar of Repose.  The stark chancel and altar allow us to focus on the events of the day through three primary offices during the Liturgy of Good Friday.  After the Entrance in silence, the ministers prostrate themselves before the Altar.  Then follows the first office, The Liturgy of the Word, focusing on the usual readings at the Eucharist – here a reading from Isaiah 52, Psalm 22, a reading from Hebrews (with two options), and the reading of The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint John. Then follows the Solemn Collects during which the church prays for the Church and its clergy and laity, the catechumens, Christian Unity, the Jewish People, those who do not believe, those who hold office in the Government, and those with special needs.

The second office is that of the Adoration of the Cross, where a crucifix is brought into the church and revealed to the people, during which time, the people may come forward to venerate the cross.  During this time hymns or the Reproaches may be sung.

Finally there is a communion from the Elements that have been reserved the previous evening.  Following the Communion, all leave in silence.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,

and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
-so marred was his appearance,
beyond human semblance,

and his form beyond that of mortals--
so he shall startle many nations;

kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?

And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;

a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him 
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.

Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked

and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,

he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.

Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.

The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,

and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

This reading is called the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant.  Each of them establishes distinct qualities of the servant, and in this poem, the servant participates in the sorrow of the people, but stands apart in terms of innocence and devotion to God.  Because of its distinct vocabulary, some 49 terms appear nowhere else in Second Isaiah; some have concluded that this beautiful poem may be at the hand of a different author.  In the Hebrew, the song has an effect of a dirge.  The question as to who this servant was is answered differently by different ages, and different traditions.  During the Inter-Testamental period the thought was that the Servant was the expected Messiah of Judaism, and others have thought that the Servant was Israel herself.  Christians see in the Servant, the image of Jesus, or of the redeemed.  In this dirge, the usual order of past glory followed by sorrow, is reversed.  Sorrow is subsumed in glory.

The initial speaker is YHWH, but at 53:13 the voice changes – “Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”  Christian commentators have seen in the new voice, the refrain of those who have been redeemed, specifically the Gentiles.  In verse six, the speaker admits the speaker’s guilt, and shows how this guilt is laid upon the Servant. What follows in these latter verses is a Servant who is rejected, stricken and suffering.  Most importantly, however, the Servant is silent – “although harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth.”   

In verse 53:11b, the speaker changes again.  YHWH acknowledges “My Servant, the Just One.”  It is out of the suffering of the Servant that victory is imparted to Israel? To the Gentiles? To any who would believe?  The victory is seen in the Servant’s death, however – “Because he surrendered himself to death.”  In a sense the Servant doesn’t participate in the victory.  The question for us as believers and some of us preachers, who does win the victory?

Breaking open Isaiah:

1.     In you mind, who is the Suffering Servant?
2.     In what ways do you indentify with this character, and in what ways not?
3.     How is Jesus a Suffering Servant for you?

Psalm 22 Deus, Deus meus

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? *
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?

O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; *
by night as well, but I find no rest.

Yet you are the Holy One, *
enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

Our forefathers put their trust in you; *
they trusted, and you delivered them.

They cried out to you and were delivered; *
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

But as for me, I am a worm and no man, *
scorned by all and despised by the people.

All who see me laugh me to scorn; *
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

"He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him; *
let him rescue him, if he delights in him."

Yet you are he who took me out of the womb, *
and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.

I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; *
you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.

Be not far from me, for trouble is near, *
and there is none to help.

Many young bulls encircle me; *
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

They open wide their jaws at me, *
like a ravening and a roaring lion.

I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint; *
my heart within my breast is melting wax.

My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; *
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.

Packs of dogs close me in,
and gangs of evildoers circle around me; *
they pierce my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.

They stare and gloat over me; *
they divide my garments among them;
they cast lots for my clothing.

Be not far away, O LORD; *
you are my strength; hasten to help me.

Save me from the sword, *
my life from the power of the dog.

Save me from the lion's mouth, *
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.

I will declare your Name to my brethren; *
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

Praise the LORD, you that fear him; *
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;
all you of Jacob's line, give glory.

For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.

My praise is of him in the great assembly; *
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall praise him: *
"May your heart live for ever!"

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, *
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the LORD; *
he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; *
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him; *
they shall be known as the LORD'S for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that he has done.

This psalm most appropriately leads us into Good Friday.  Matthew uses the first verse of the psalm - where Jesus, on the cross, quotes this verse.  Later verses (16 – 19) are also seen as a connection to the crucifixion of Jesus.  The verses largely describe a dire situation, in which the speaker bewails his condition.  Oddly, in the initial utterances of this despair, the psalmist interjects a beautiful line of praise, “Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.”  The speaker knows that he owes his life to God, “You drew me out from the womb”, but yet despairs about his situation. 

From verse 22 on, the psalm is devoted to thanksgiving and praise.  With a similar frame of mind to Psalm 116, the speaker reminds God of the vows and sacrifice that he has made, and how all the earth is fed by a gracious God.  In verses where the psalm rejoices in all the realm of God’s kingship there is a startling addition, namely the dead.  The common thought in the bulk of the Psalter is that the dead cannot praise (Psalm 115:17).   Here, however, shall kneel “all who go down to the dust, whose life is undone.”  The final verses promise the praise of future generations (my seed) and the prosperity of a people aborning to whom the psalmist proclaims good news.

Breaking open Psalm 22
1.       Have you ever been moved from despair to joy?  What was it like?
2.       How have your praised God in the midst of sorrow?
3.       How will your faith be known to the future?

Hebrews 10:16-25

"This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts,

and I will write them on their minds,"

he also adds,

"I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

In these passages, the author has seen Jesus as guaranteeing access to the Father, which is confirmed by the quotations from Jeremiah 31.  It is Jeremiah who “spiritualizes” the temple rites and indeed the Law itself.  It is not the jot and titel, but rather the mind and the heart of the thing.  Having these spiritual realities incorporate in the believers life and heart leads to the realization about sin and lawlessness – it is no more. 

Thus the old priesthood is superseded by the priestly ministry of Jesus; “there is no longer any offering for sin.”  What is described here is a new mode of being and living, a realization of the “new creation” that is described so often in the writings of St. Paul.  The spiritualization has its limits, however.  There remains the need to do “love and good deeds,” while awaiting Christ’s coming again.

Breaking open Hebrews 10:

1.               Is God an internal or external force in your life?
2.               How do you have access to God?
3.               How does this access change your behavior toward others?


Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes the guise of the High Priest of Israel and casts it upon Jesus, using this identification to underscore the gifts that Jesus brings.  As in the verses of the alternative reading above, the author points to the superior nature of the priesthood of Jesus.  Here the appeal is made to Jesus’ identification with our own weakness and inabilities – which on this day is focused in the suffering and death on the cross.  The priestly service that the author recognizes is that of mediation between God and the faithful.  The gift is one of courage as we, the redeemed, “approach the throne of grace with boldness.”  Think on these things as you approach to venerate the cross.

Breaking open Hebrews 4:

4.               What do you see as weakness in your life?
5.               In what ways did Jesus participate in that weakness in his own life?
6.               How bold are you in your approach to God?

St. John 18:1-19:42

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

"They divided my clothes among themselves,

and for my clothing they cast lots."

And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Some comments and observations on the Passion according to John are in order here.  The Narrative consists of three divisions (a. The Arrest and Interrogation of Jesus, b. The Trial of Jesus before Pilate, and c. The Execution of Jesus on the Cross and his Burial) (Brown).  It might be good to note the outline below so that the pattern of the Narrative might be seen:

Division One – Arrest and Questioning
-       The arrest of Jesus (18:1-11)
-       Movement to the palace of Annas (18:12-13)
-       The questioning of Jesus (18:14-27)

Aside from our Lord, Peter seems to be one of the chief characters in this division.  He reacts with fury at the arrest of Jesus, he appears at the garden or courtyard of Anna, and denies any involvement with Jesus.  Other important characters are Annas and Caiaphas, who in John represent the Jews who are in opposition to Jesus.  Some commentators have noted that John’s antipathy to the Jews may stem from the real situation that beset the early Church in Palestine following the destruction of Jerusalem, and the continuing Diaspora that saw the flight of influential Jewish leaders to Egypt and Asia Minor.  The Gospel according to St. Matthew also alludes to the difficulties between Synagogue and the Christian community.

Division Two – The Trial and Pilate
-       Jewish request to condemn Jesus (18:28-32)
-       Pilate questions Jesus (18:33-38a)
-       Pilate attempts to release Jesus (18:38b – 40)
-       Intermission – The scourging of Jesus (19:1-3)
-       Jesus is presented to the people (19:4-8)
-       Jesus and Pilate on “power” (19:9-11)
-       Pilate condemns Jesus (19:12-16a)

There is some elegance to the structure of this division, three episodes, an intermission, and the final three episodes.  In the first triad, the authorities request condemnation; Pilate seeks facts, and finally attempts a release.  In the last triad, the people request condemnation, Pilate again has questions, and finally condemns Jesus. 

Division Three – Execution and Burial
-       The way of the cross (19:16b-18)
-       The inscription (19:19-22)
-       The division of Jesus’ clothing (19:23-24)
-       Mary and the Beloved Disciple (19:25-27)
-       Thirst and giving up the spirit (19:28-30)
-       The breaking of Jesus’ legs – blood and water (19:31-37)
-       Concluding scene – Joseph and Nicodemus (19:38-42)

The first three episodes depict a Jesus who is not in control, but who is being sent to the cross, and stripped bare for all to see.  The next three episodes are ones in which Jesus gives up something: first, his mother to the Beloved Disciple, secondly the opportunity to slake his thirst, and the giving up of his life, and finally his giving up of blood and water (which John sees as signs of something greater).  The final scene returns to a Jesus who is being handled by others.  Raymond Brown, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, sees in the concluding verses of the Passion, the translation of the Narrative to a new group of believers represented in Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. 

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. What differences do you notice in John’s Narrative?
  2. What are the basic elements of the story in your mind?
  3. Who do you think Joseph and Nicodemus represent?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Good Friday. 

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

All commentary and questions are copyright © 2013 Michael T. Hiller


Popular posts from this blog

The Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 5, 6 June 2021

The Day of Pentecost, Whitsunday, 23 May 2021

The Second Sunday of Advent, 6 December 2020