Year C, Good Friday
April 15, 2022
Year C: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 10:1-25; John 18:1-40
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
With these words from the cross, Jesus died as he lived. And these final words echo the motivation that governed the whole of his ministry. The Spirit of God rested upon him at his baptism and drove him into the wilderness. The angels who keep God’s council protected him there. He healed people as he traveled the countryside but proclaiming the Kingdom of God always governed his efforts.
He taught, but his instruction baffled students of the Law because he did not listen to the letter of the Law or even necessarily to its logic.
He did not wander into Jerusalem but set his face toward it. These words of Jesus from the cross echo his words to Pilate: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above….” And now, in these final moments, he entrusts his spirit and, by implication, the outcome of his last struggle with death to God’s care.
What he accomplishes here no one else can repeat, and the sovereignty and freedom he exercises is something no one can imitate. Yet, paradoxically, in these words, Jesus also models for us a way of life — the Christian pilgrimage. He tells Peter, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The purpose that the Son shares with the Father is meant to shape the life of Peter and our lives as well.
We live in the age of radical self-assertion. We know what we want. We want it now, and we resist anything that stands in our way. Our society is bent on self-assertion. Our churches are built on it. Yet, more often than not, we don’t seek a journey into the mystery of God.
Countless tangled threads shape the desire to assert our independence. Some of that resistance lies in misunderstanding and fear; the fear that a wholehearted love of God will rob us of all our other passions and attachments is chief among them. We forget that everything we have God has given us and that it was God who declared creation good.
We are also afraid that we will open ourselves to abuse and exploitation if we love God. But it is worth remembering that there is nothing in the example of Jesus that obliges us to live the life of victims or to perpetuate generations of cruelty.
Jesus may appear to be helpless. There is even a strain of Christian theology that would suggest that Jesus was a passive victim. There are also metaphors and images from Scripture, which would underline that impression if used in isolation.
But those images also offer an incomplete and potentially misleading picture. Jesus’ experience is not an endorsement of violence or victimhood. He is victimized, but he is not a victim. He may be put to death, but the death he suffers can only happen because those who put him to death are given the power to do it from above. He entrusts his spirit to God, not his tormentors.
In that regard, Jesus is more like a combatant with resources that appear to be more limited than those at the enemy’s disposal. Hence, a faithful imitation of his example is that of a Dietrich Bonhoeffer who returns to his native Germany from Manhattan to battle Nazism in 1939, knowing that his only weapons are the Gospel and resistance.
But it isn’t just our culture or these misunderstandings that lead us to resist commending our own spirits to God. If we are honest about it, our objections to it are deeper and primal. It is the spirit of Judas’ betrayal, but it is also the spirit of Peter’s denial.
And therein lies a dangerous temptation, the one that Jesus resisted in the wilderness, in Gethsemane, and now here — and in truth, throughout his ministry. It is the perennial struggle to live into the freedom that only God can give us. To resist the power of the grave that asserts itself in life.
And now, in these final and darkest of days, we are invited to trust the one who has entered the heart of darkness and knows the way through. The only question now is whether we will follow.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
In the same way,
Give me the strength to surrender,
To abandon my striving,
To find new freedom by measuring
The limits of my strength.
Help me to find light in the darkness,
Between your death and resurrection,
For you alone can conquer death,
And deliver us from the mortality,
That haunts all our days.
In Jesus, God has come among us, sharing our common lot, including the suffering that humans cause. Jesus shares the fate of the poor and the great.
As we look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, it is one of great joy, abundant life, and suffering. It sounds a lot like our own lives.
The truth of humanity is revealed in the crucifixion of Jesus. In his death on the cross God is made one with all of humanity. When God raises him from the dead, all humanity is one with God.
A final thought:
Where has our Lenten journey taken us and what are its implications for our spiritual lives?
 Cf. John 10:18, New Revised Standard Version (“NRSV”)
 John 19:11, NRSV
 Matthew 18:18, NRSV