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Weekly Message 04-25-08: Great and Holy Friday

Great and Holy Friday

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace, the Praetorium, and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, the twisted together crown of thorns and set it on him Mark 15: 16 - 17.

The road that stretched out before Jesus between Pilate's court and the cross has been traditionally called "the painful way," the Via Dolorosa in Latin. That is certainly an understatement. A gauntlet of suffering extracted a horrific price from Christ long before the agony of the cross began. The soldiers whipped him and mocked him, crowning him with thorns. They forced Jesus to carry a cross and then humiliated him by requiring a stranger to carry it for him. He heard women weeping for him and realized sadly that they did no grasp what awaited them. People experience pain in many ways and Jesus was acquainted with all of them.

We find the sights and sounds of the final hours of Jesus repulsive. Faced with terrible acts humans are capable of committing against one another, we are sickened spiritually and physically, the idea that our God would submit to such maltreatment at the hands of created beings stuns us. But when we realize that God endured this suffering on our behalf, we come to a moment of crisis. Either we accept the fact that our sins required painful solutions or we decide to take lightly the cross of Christ. In the events that proceed to occur we glimpse the lengths our heavenly Father went out of love for us in permitting his Son to endure and submit to our violence.

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him and then twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him, `Hail, king of the Jews' they said" Matthew 27: 28.

What sort of garland did our Lord submit to on behalf of all humanity? One made of thorns and thistles, a symbol of the painful violence of our sinfulness, produced by the soil of the flesh. However, the power of the cross removed the thorns, blunting death's every sting in the Lord's enduring head. Yes, even beyond this symbol, contempt, shame, disgrace, and fierce cruelty disfigured and lacerated the temples of the Lord. This was so that now we may be crowned with laurel, myrtle, olive and any branch of dignity and fame, with roses, too - and both kinds of lily, violets of all sorts and perhaps with gems and gold - garlands that will rival even the crown Christ obtained afterwards. Our heavenly Father first made him a little lower than the angels for a time and then crowned him with glory and honor. If we owe our head to him for these things, we may repay it because He presented his head instead of ours to those who exacted tribute. Otherwise, we do not need to be crowned with flowers if we cannot be crowned first with thorns for our sins.

And they clothed him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns and put it on his head Mark 15: 17.

O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. A crown fully surrounded with thorns, is our gift to you, Son of God. 0 sacred head, what glory, what bliss until now was yours; yet though despised and gory, we joy to call him our Saviour. What you, our Lord still suffer, is all for the gain of sinners. Mine, mine was the transgression but yours the ugly pain. Here I fall my Saviour, because I deserve your place; look to me with favor and grant me your free grace. What language shall I borrow to thank you, dearest friend, for you're your dying sorrow, your pity without end? Make me yours forever and should I negligent be, Lord let me never outlive my love for you!

Each good deed we do for our neighbors is entered into the Gospel which is written on heavenly tablets and read by all who are worthy of the knowledge of the entirety of truth. But on the other hand, there is a part of the gospel which condemns those who do the same evil deeds done to Jesus. The gospel includes the treachery of Judas and the shouts of the wicked crowd when it said, "Away with him, Crucify him, crucify him," the mocking of those who crowned him with thorns and every thing abhorrent to the mind of decent man. Let us not be accounted among those who still have thorns enough with which they crown and dishonor our Saviour, namely those who have been choked by the cares, the riches and the imagined pleasures and values of this life. Let us beware that having received the word of Life, we do not carry it out, we do not live it with seriousness and sincerity. Let us beware lest we crown the Lord of Life with thorns of our own making.

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