All human life’s here, the News of the World used to say. Certainly that’s true of the crucifixion story. All human life, mainly at its worst, is there: awful Roman cruelty; injustice and barbaric torture of innocence; terrible corruption, envy and vindictiveness among the Jewish authorities; the heartless betrayal of a close friend for money by Judas; the cowardice of Peter and the apostles in abandoning and denying their lord; the violence of the mob; the cruel greed of the soldiers who dice for his clothes as Jesus dies. Maybe that why some objected to Gibson’s film of the Passion, it shows us ourselves in the raw. Is that all we are still? Certainly, its all still happening today. Listen to the news, human nature hasn’t changed despite all our scientific and technological progress. A sophisticated savage, might sum up the man of the wars and genocides of our era. Yet people still say we don’t need God or redemption. Indeed, many still try to kill Christ in our societies. Yet all is not darkness. Though sin pervades the world still, so does the healing witness and hope of the dying Christ. He’s the answer to all that darkness, if only we freely accept his love. And in the Passion story there are also signs that we’re capable of doing so: the women staying with and weeping for Jesus; Mary at the foot of the cross, loving to the end; Veronica wiping the face of Jesus and comforting him; Saul carrying his cross, though admittedly forced to do so; the centurion suddenly shouting: “in truth this was the son of God”. But above all we’ve the dazzling example of Christ himself, the God man. Despite sin, greed and brutality, his message is simple; God still loves us, believes in us, reaches out to us in total love and forgiveness.
That’s the jewel at the heart of the whole sordid story; we are redeemed and redeemable. Christ defeated Satan, evil, death, cruelty and darkness for us. In his holy church now we’ve instant access to the other way of light and grace. We can turn the world into heaven if we but take the hand of the Lord and follow his gentle way. But here’s the rub, though light has come into the world, Paul says, many still prefer darkness. They reject the broken hand of God reaching out in love to take ours.
Thank God we aren’t part of that rejection. By gathering here we show that we accept Christ’s saving love, and want to be living members of his holy kingdom, the light of the world. We want to bring that light to our children and others. For that’s the only way evil, cruelty, violence and death can be defeated, by the new kingdom of God come in Christ.
In Gibson film we see the devil cast down to hell as Christ breathes his last. We see those who’ve crucified Him slink away in fear as earth and heaven opens. Yet this is Good Friday, when the cross made possible man’s resurrection, Christ’s complete triumph on our behalf. So we already anticipate the Alleluias of Easter as we honour and kiss the cross of a God who gave every drop of his blood for us. We do so in faith that His great love will eventually redeem the whole world with our help.