Promised Treasures - Wood
Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 27:45–56
April 7, 2023
Matthew 27: 45-56
“Promised Treasures – Wood”
“The church does not pretend, as it were, that it does not know what will happen with the crucified Jesus. It does not sorrow and mourn over the Lord as if the church itself were not the very creation which has been produced from his wounded side and from the depths of his tomb. All through the services the victory of Christ is contemplated and the resurrection is proclaimed” (by Thomas Hopko in A Triduum Sourcebook, ed. by Gabe Huck and Mary Ann Simcoe. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1983; p. 1).
These are helpful words, and they guide us into a deeper understanding of what this most solemn day of the Christian year means. Good Friday is somber and solemn, but it is not a funeral for Jesus. Together with fellow believers throughout all the world, we gather on this to proclaim the triumph of the cross. That is what this day was originally called: the triumph of the cross. The cross stands before us always, but on this day especially the full weight and meaning of what happened on the cross is what we meditate upon and give thanks to God.
Throughout this Lenten season, we have considered ways in which the Gospel is conveyed through physical senses. We have seen, touched, smelled, and felt things like ashes, salt, water, light, stone, palms, water and blood. The purpose of focusing on these earthly elements is to make the eternal love of God more memorable, tactile, and meaningful for the people of God. These elements have served as footholds for renewed hope and strength in our journey of faith. With the cross before us on this Good Friday, we focus on the wood of the cross.
The truth is that we have largely sanitized the cross and the terrible suffering that took place upon it. The wood of the cross on which Jesus hung on that first Good Friday would have been stained with his own blood, not just from the crucifixion itself, but from the scourging that preceded it. Jesus’ back would have been in shreds from this torture. Weakened by loss of blood from this, together with the excruciating pain of having huge iron spikes driven through hands and feet, we can only imagine what Jesus endured – and this is just the physical aspect of crucifixion. There is also the psychological aspect of crucifixion: the humiliation of being stripped naked and exposed publicly to the taunting ridicule of onlookers during a slow, agonizing death – this is beyond imagination. But there is something even more terrible in all of this, and that is the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ crucifixion that is unique to him alone as the Son of God. The Law of Moses stated that “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). Not only this curse hung over Jesus, but he endured abandonment by the heavenly Father while hanging on the cross, causing him to cry out in the words of the psalmist: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Bearing the crushing weight of the sins of the world, being abandoned and forsaken by his own Father, Jesus became for us that sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
The wood of Jesus’ own cross, far from being smooth and highly polished like the crosses we are accustomed to seeing, would have been rough-hewn, full of splinters, covered with the blood from his wounds. Though the Romans themselves used crucifixion on a huge scale, it was so repulsive within polite Roman society that it was considered improper even to speak of it. And yet, there is Jesus, suspended between heaven and earth on the wood of the cross, all for us and for our salvation. If we have any doubts that we are loved by God, if there is any uncertainty that we matter to our Creator, we need only look upon how God’s love is revealed here at the cross: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That is love, not just in words, but love in action. It is this great love of God for us – love that would not withhold even the life of God’s only Son – that makes this Good Friday, and Good Friday cannot be separated from Easter Sunday. In Jesus, death must lead to resurrection and new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.