Short thoughts on the seven words on the cross 2020.
I write these thoughts for myself but pass them on as they may be helpful to someone else at this critical and difficult time for our country, for the church, and for all of us and our families. Holy week and Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter are very difficult without any church connection. My earliest memories of Good Friday are of a service of Three hours normally with about 7 addresses about 10-12 minutes long, eight, hymns, some prayers and a considerable amount of silence. Often the texts were from the seven words of Jesus on the cross. So when I was thinking about this in the bleakness of lock down I reread a book of my uncle’s Good Friday addresses and began to think how the seven words seem very appropriate to our present situation so I thought some may find it helpful to have something on which to hang their thoughts during this week.
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Lk 23. 34
Here is Jesus on Calvary with the cross on to which he was being nailed and yet he expresses these thoughts. First he acknowledges his relationship but then he calls on his loving Father to forgive those who are imposing great suffering on his beloved Son. He recognising that they do not really have an appreciation of to whom they are inflicting this suffering and are purely obeying orders given from a remote and perhaps incompetent leader and religious zealots who have little depth of understanding.
We perhaps are reminded by the word Father that like Jesus we belong to the family of God but unlike Jesus we have not always followed where our Father wishes to lead us. We see that perhaps in the problem of global warming where man’s inherent selfishness and greed of society have damaged God’s creation. As we see pollutions levels plummet because of the lessening of transport this is a reminder that we need to seek his forgiveness and perhaps we are being shocked as were those Roman soldiers to hear forgiveness spoken rather that verbal abuse.
These words are spoken to us now and as we see the world in crisis we need to receive that forgiveness humbly acknowledging that at least some ways the present crisis has been increased because of our misuse of His gifts. When we come to the new life afterwards there is need to closely examine how we live our lives and although we may have temporarily forgotten our full responsibilities perhaps this crisis has helped us remember. Yet we need po accept that we are forgiven by our loving Saviour
I will tell you the truth, today you will be with me in Paradise LK 23,43
Two criminals were crucified with Jesus and it seems both of them had heard something but Jesus’s reputation. Both in different ways responded to it. One wanted him to use his power to rescue him from a situation for which he was responsible. The other just humbly asked Jesus to remember him when he came to his kingdom acknowledging his fault. There is something to think about in this. Here are two criminals both of which had done wrong. Yet they reached opposite answers. One wanted a quick fix and the other was prepared to wait on Jesus and his Kingdom. What about us as we live in this difficult time, cut off and unused to the confinement of the regulations. In life we often seek the easy way out and are not prepared to wait and this is of course leads us into problems and sin. The selfishness of wanting things our way. Why things can’t be done my way or according to what I consider the best way. We are impatient.
Yet see what Jesus said to the one who recognised he had got no answers except Jesus. Today you will be with me in Paradise is what we all would want as Christians. In the present situation it is so easily with hindsight to see what might have been done. It is so easy to think another leader or even we could have done it better. Yet we need like the penitent thief as we recognise how much we and all creation have denied God and that now we are facing a crisis which to some extent is of our making that we need to be saying to Jesus, Lord remember me when you come to your kingdom. We also need to welcome the reply Today you will be with me. We can truly trust we are in God’s hands and trust in him.
Dear woman here is your son. And to John Here is your Mother.
Jn 19. 26,27
Think for a moment of a mother with a friend watching your child suffer one the cruellest death devised by man. The feelings which would be overwhelming. The horror that would face you as you saw his wounds and his bleeding head. At the moment we are seeing happening in our midst the same suffering to many people and many families. This is even more painful as frequently the relatives cannot be with the dying patients. Equally in this situation families cannot be together because of journey being banned and social mixing banned. Although various means of communication can be done by other means yet it is not the same as being together. You can no longer, hug, kiss them or easily social intermix. Mary, at the foot of cross, could see Jesus and his suffering but could not touch or hold just observe his pain. Yet Jesus reached in care of his mother and committed her into the care of his beloved disciple, John. Here in the midst of all his pain and the weight of his body on his nailed hands which must have restricted his breathing considerably, yet he was able to see his Mother and see John there and provide a way forward for her. He was able to call out to both and direct their way onwards. What love and what care Jesus shows.
Today if we are alive to it he is showing something of the same love for us. Yes his world is suffering. Yes, we as families, are distraught with this isolation perhaps. Yet he is still there even in this painful time to say Dear person I still care and I am committing you into the hands of those who are around. You may not be able to touch them. You feel distanced from them but still we need to recognise that through his love he is still caring and offering care as we each in our way offer care to others. We need to remember as we stand looking at the cross that it was a cross on which hangs Love and that love is still with us even in our isolation and those who love us still are reaching out to us through prayer and other contacts to show their love and His love for each of us.
Eloi, Elio, lama sabachthani which means My God My God why have you forsaken me Mk 15 54
Alone and in pain and deserted by most of his followers would you not despair and feel desolate. I suppose for many of us there is something of the same feeling in the lockdown although for most there is not the pain that Jesus would have felt yet there is something of wondering when it is going to end. Many who have ones will feel these even more deeply. Yet the cross is not an image entirely of despair but of victory.
The words Jesus uses come from Psalm 22 and although it begins with this cry of despair it ends with words of hope and victory in power of God. Yes there is probably a need for us to recognise especially as such a time as this that there is no instant solution and no easy way out. Those of us who are older wonder how it will end and will life ever return to normal or will we survive that long. It was interesting how in the Queen’s recent broadcast speech we looked briefly at her talking at the beginning of the Second World War. That was a time of despair and disturbance as well when the future was uncertain and life seemed in grave danger. Many then would have cried out with Ps 22 Yet we came through and by support one of another and following the restriction laid down for us the victory was achieved. So today as Our Lord cries so we may go to the end of the psalm and know that victory is assured although to get there we may pass through many crisis and several difficulties but he relies on God even if He seems far distant and so must we.
I am thirsty JN 19 28
On Calvary at midday of just after it would have been hot. There was little shelter and the constant struggle to breath and the flies constantly buzzing around and settling with no means of removing them was exhausting. Jesus was human and feeling it as each of us would. Naturally he was getting parched and needed liquid. He expresses the natural need but perhaps also it could be interpreted as also a spiritual need. He thirsts as any one of us would be also being separated from God as expressed in the previous word and seen the needs of the world he came to save he thirsts for the salvation, the washing clean, of the people whom he had created with his Father.
Now we are all beginning to feel the difficulty of the physical remoteness of the isolation now we can perhaps get free unlike Jesus but know we should not. We long, we thirst, for that freedom. Equally we long, we thirst within the church for others to come to freedom the cleansing water of Christ. The sponge on the hyssop was offered to Him bit he could not take it that time. Perhaps at the moment we cannot quench our thirst but what we can do I pray and remind ourselves that it is Christ who does the work and we are only his agents. Perhaps this period is a time of preparation. After the last war the churches had an opportunity in the new environment for growth and many did. We need to prepare ourselves to have our thirst quenched as we face the renewed opportunities after this to bring something of the healing power of God’s Holy Spirit into the recovering world.
It is finished Jn 19. 30
The end is nearing in the struggle of the cross. The darkness has covered the land. The evening is approaching and death is not far away. The shout of It is finished or in the Message version It is done.. complete. It is a shout of victory. Despite all that evil man could so to suppress the love of God Jesus had still resisted and stood firm in his fight to show love conquers everything. Yes Jesus had won the victory but frequently as often happens in battles the full fruits of that victory can yet be fully appreciated. Sad to say still there are many problems in our world, poverty, refugees, famine, homelessness, war, oppression to name a few. Global warming and man’s selfishness are perhaps the difficult problems to be overcome but the primary battle was won and completed on that cross by Jesus. We have to acknowledge and accept that fact day by day. This is where we need to be strong in the face of Covid 19 for although it seems all consuming and overpowering God knows about it. Some say it is an action by God to bring people back to him or a punishment by God on the world. I have problems with both knowing how loving Christ is. I find it more certain that it can be overcome and we have to believe that the ultimate victory is Christ’s. He suffered to bring us that victory and still will be victorious but like him there are occasions when the world has to go through suffering as it has done throughout the ages. Looked at historically every century or so there seems at least in some parts of the world a clearing out of some sort. Always afterwards advances for the benefit of mankind and come into being. Perhaps this is another but what we need to confident of is that Jesus has got it in hand and it is complete and done and finished under his plan but not necessary according to our timetable.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit Lk 23 46 Mt 27.50
It is now coming to an end. Again we are reminded of his relationship with his heavenly father. Again we go back to the psalms in this case Ps 31 v.5. He would have been taught in the synagogue the psalms which are at the centre of Jewish worship as they in many Christian churches, and are a source of wonderful inspiration on all sorts of occasions. We have begun with remembering the relationship with his father and now is to return into the heavenly realms again to be with him. One the problems of us all as humans is that we tend to like to be self-sufficient, and in consequence have problems at times of recognising our dependence on one another. Jesus despite having said My God My God still knew of his need of family especially in times of crisis. One of the greatest hardships of our present pandemic is that families are not able to be with loved at times of greatest crisis or to get together to share in that sadness and trauma as family and friends. Jesus had few friends if any at the time he died and his family, save his mother, seemed out of the picture. He is alongside all in love and cares when problems exist. What we need to do more consciously personnally is to commend ourselves, our families, our friends into God’s hands. We need to try and realise that he does love us all and even in the difficulties he is still involved. He showed his involvement in the whole of life in his earthly life in healing and in caring. He does this today with his church as far as it is able at this time. But above all we need to try and accept that he loves us and will be supporting us and those we love in ways we perhaps cannot understand. We have to trust and believe that Christ does love us an as we commit ourselves and friends to Him he receives and cares for them as his father cared for HIM
Friends these are few thoughts I wrote down for Holy week and Easter and just pass them on to you to use as you wish. I did them basically for myself but having typed them I thought there might ideas helpful to some others
A Happy and Blessed Easter Peter Baden