Download or listen to Good Friday: “Pierced” (John 19:31-37)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ 37And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.’”
Tonight we look on Him whom we have pierced. We ponder now His holy passion. We come to Calvary’s holy mountain, sinners ruined by the Fall. We see His Sacred Head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. Though we would rather turn our eyes, if we allow ourselves to consider the reality of the crucifixion, tonight we are confronted with the full face of human suffering. There is nothing to compare to this: no little girl starving, no homeless man freezing, no newsworthy crime; as difficult as those are to think about, nothing compares to the suffering of this Man, because He is the only true Man who has yet lived. We suffer not because we are innocent; what suffering we avoid is not because we deserve less. And if we cannot quite bring ourselves to believe that we really do deserve punishment now and forever, it only reveals how far gone we are, how blind, how ignorant, how easily deceived. Tonight we look on Him whom we have pierced.
But that is not why we look on Him. This is not an exercise in feeling guilty. This is not the scolding finger of an angry father saying, “Look what you’ve done!” No doubt, we have done this. But hear St. John’s words: “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled….” This is always the way God works. This is what it means that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose; those whom He called, whom He foreknew, whom He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. He takes all the garbage, all the sewage, all the evil of human beings, and even all our supposed good works, and puts them in the cup of dust that causes the Water of Life to thirst. He drinks it all, takes it all into Himself, and brings it to an end in His own flesh, in His humanity. And when He has died, when the soldiers are making their rounds, certifying the deaths of the criminals assigned to them, one of them pierces His side. Not violently, but as carefully as any medical examiner. And in place of all the dry, withered devastation of human sin and death blood and water flow from His pierced body. (I wonder if that soldier avoided being splashed by the liquid coming from Christ’s side.)
And from this death the Church is born and nourished. As God made a bride for Adam by opening his side, so God makes a Bride for His Son by opening His side. You have been washed in the water with the Word; you are flesh of His Flesh and blood of His Blood. You have eaten and drunk from no other Christ than from this crucified one. “For ‘there came forth water and blood.’ Not without a purpose, or by chance, did those fount[ains] come forth, but because by means of these two together the Church consist[s]. And the initiated know it, being by water indeed regenerate[d], and nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. Hence the Mysteries take their beginning; that when [you approach] to that [awe-inspiring] cup, [you may] so approach, as drinking from the very side” (Chrysostom, Homily on John 19 [http://bit.ly/HdMQJi]). As drinking from the very side of Christ. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Until He comes—come quickly, Lord Jesus!—you look on the one you have pierced, and are washed clean.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/4/12