Stations of the Cross:
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Please read the scriptures set for this day before continuing: https://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC/HolyWk/GoodFri.html
look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed
and given up into the hands of sinners
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Words from the second reading set for today: ‘Since 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’.
The lockdown that we are facing at the present time has resulted in all manner of activities and rituals designed to stop us becoming despondent: daily walks, films, Disney+ subscriptions, and of course music. Music has become more important than ever, and that is certainly true here in Anfield. From the rooms in the Vicarage music can be heard playing from somewhere on Pinehurst Avenue. One song that has been played rather a lot over the last few days, and again today, is ‘Rescue Me’ by Fontella Bass. It’s a song that we’ve no doubt probably all heard often enough, but I wonder whether we’ve ever really paid much attention to the lyrics? They are particularly appropriate this Good Friday – we are all longing to be rescued, rescued from this challenging and unprecedented situation that we are living through.
That is exactly what Jesus came to do: he came to rescue us. Jesus came so that we may be free. Jesus came on a rescue mission for the human race so that we might find grace and life eternal in him. Jesus came to us, as a ‘baby’, to begin the work of salvation, and take us all ‘in his arms’. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that it is by the wounds inflicted on him that we are healed. It is by his passion and death that ‘we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’.
Over the last few days, we have read of how Jesus reveals himself as a priest; he returns to the Temple, he instructs the disciples in the law of the Lord, he offers the sacrifice of the new covenant utilising the image of the Passover lamb and today, all of this comes to its culmination. Jesus, in this ‘day of his flesh’ offers us supplications to the Father for our salvation and the salvation of the whole world.
How then does Jesus exercise his priesthood today? He makes it visible by using the imagery of the night before; the images of the ‘new rite’ given at the Last Supper, become images of a new reality. On Good Friday, Jesus the priest offers the sacrifice of flesh and blood, on the altar of the cross. The bread and wine of the Passover, in which Jesus said this is my body, this is my blood are now loaded with meaning. In the words of Saint Augustine, Jesus today, ‘offers himself as [the] sacrifice for all sacrifices’. His sacrifice on the cross infuses power into the commandment to share bread and wine.
Jesus as the ‘high priest’, to use the words of our reading from the letter to the Hebrews, offers the sacrifice for all of time. He himself becomes the sacrificial victim by whose death we are reconciled. Today, he reveals himself as the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim, his priestly flesh given for the life of the world. This flesh opens the way for a new exodus, the exodus to eternal life. The old Passover is gone and the Passover of the Messiah is here.
We will remember from the reflection for Maundy Thursday that the Lamb to be sacrificed had to be unblemished – we hear in our reading today that whilst Jesus the Lamb was ‘without sin’ he accepted that his life would be an ‘offering for sin’. Jesus the Lamb commanded his disciples to eat of his body and blood – but did so before his death. Today he dies to make a new and everlasting covenant in his blood. And he dies as the Lamb of God – the Passover Lamb bringing redemption to all.
A key act in receiving the salvation re-lived at the Passover would’ve been to fulfil the injunctions in Exodus 12: to kill the lamb and to spread its blood. Jesus appropriates these instructions to himself, and a cross, giving them new and eternal meaning today.
Early Christian and Jewish sources recall that the Passover Lambs, in addition to being slaughtered, were also ‘crucified’. Staves of wood were placed through the animal in the shape of the + the lifeblood that issued forth bringing salvation to the Jews; their liberation from Egypt being makde
That blood would not have been wasted. In Jewish though it was blood that gave life. Blood was the very essence of the person, and God given. The blood of the Lamb, as we read in the Exodus account, would’ve been spread on the door post and lintels of the houses, as a sign of protection and salvation.
Today the blood of the Lamb, Jesus himself, is spread not on the wooden door of a house, but rather on the wood of the cross. The blood of Jesus now has the power to save from death. The wood of the cross, stained with the blood of the Lamb becomes not a door of protection against death, but the very mechanism, the very door by which salvation is achieved. It is a narrow door that brings life – but it is a door that is open for all. Jesus the Jew dies, his blood outpoured on the cross not just as King of the Jews, but King of all.
This victim offers himself in order that love may conquer every part, to quote our song again, his love conquers every part of our sinfulness, his love conquers death, the one who was prophesied about by Isaiah is the prophet on the cross, the one who was foreshadowed in the Passover Lamb becomes the priestly lamb of sacrifice, the messiah King expected by the Jews now reigns from the wood of Cross. The Lamb of the new and eternal covenant dies for you, today, Christ, the eternal priest is sacrificed and crucified. He goes to death as the true Passover sacrifice fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would come at the time when the old Passover from Egypt was celebrated. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the unblemished lamb. Jesus is the priest offering the sacrifice of his flesh and blood. Jesus is our new Passover: ‘this Passover is our Saviour and our refuge’, sent to rescue me and take me in your arms’.
Let us pray:
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Why not listen/sing along to: