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  • Writer's pictureFr Robert Randall McDonald Bagwell

"Tetelesti" It is Finished

Good Friday + Year C

Fr. Robert R.M. Bagwell+

15, April 2022

No wonder Peter denied him three times! No wonder the disciples abandoned him him! No wonder Judas hung himself! It was the incoherence of reality. The wordless, helpless, miracle-less, even God-less death and everything seemed suddenly as if it had never been. He who had announced that God was near even here, died utterly forsaken by God and was publicly demonstrated as “God-less” before the whole world.

It was an inside job—the crucifixion I mean. No it wasn’t really the Romans. Nor the anti-Semites--it was the Jews, save for both of these peoples, those in positions of political power had some say in the outcome. No, it was really, an inside job. Psalm 41:9 says: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” And who else could have so decidedly made it happen and indeed with a outward display of affection and familiarity? “Judas, do you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” To one to whom Jesus gave of himself freely, openly and trustingly? A fool? No God the Son, unless you believe God the fool.

Son of Man: that title seems so human to us 2000 years later, but to the Hebrew of Jesus’ day, it was a title that said “Judas, do you betray the Messiah of God with a kiss?” But who would have believed that God cared? The psalm says: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? “You’ve felt that, haven’t you? But not like Jesus--have you felt it, hanging naked and exposed, from a gory display platform before people who are mocking and jeering at you. In front of those for whom your death is but another opportunity to exalt themselves above others for their own benefit? No, we are used to compassion in the face of death. In fact many of us can get down-right sacrificial when it comes to death, but not for Jesus was this to be. Can you imagine, sitting in the electric chair, convicted, not of crimes against humanity, but of presumed crimes against the state? Can you imagine it especially if it wasn’t true? Can you imagine it if the only crime you ever committed was trying to help humanity?

What was nailed on that tree? Think of everything in your life that you’ve ever regretted. Think of every word you and I should never have said. Think of every pain and hurt you’ve ever read about, heard about, every evil in yourself or others you have ever despised. That, my family in God is what was nailed to that cosmic wooden cross. No wonder we call him Savior. No wonder we call him Lord!, No wonder we gather every week to be forgiven and celebrate this deed that gives life to our lives that gives LIFE to the world. Not YOU ? Yes YOU! Not me? YES ME! Let us stop the playing games of denial! Let us grow up for a moment and ADMIT! Remember the words of the hymn as we sing forlornly: “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus hath undone thee. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee: I crucified thee!”

Shockingly, we have seen the unthinkable on our television screens in Ukraine. Barbaric behavior we have only seen in history books about the third Reich. Heartless murder, rampant destruction and bombed out western cities! Not since the ancient world before Hitler had we seen such heinous sin, and this brutal dictator so called “president” is baptized the defiles the sacrament every time he enters an Orthodox Church and the cowardly clergy go along with it. In Russia, Jesus is crucified afresh at each Russian Orthodox Church and dragged bloody through the streets of Ukraine. This is only a shadow of the brutality of crucifixion that we remember today. This was one of the most brutal deaths ever invented by humanity. The Persians invented it; Alexander the Great and his generals brought it back with them to the Mediterranean world. Rome refined its cruelty and made it a ghastly form of macabre collective pleasure! Human life was not “sacred” to the ancient world. Executions were public entertainment and served as a warning to would-be lawbreakers. One wonders with the possibilities for pay-per-view if we are so far from their level of debauched thinking. The victims were fist lashed with a flagellum consisting of heavy leather thongs with two small lead balls, attached at the tip of each. Across the shoulders, back and legs, blows would be hurled at full force each time. Ribbons of torn bleeding flesh would hang from the victim’s back after the first few blows. The condemned was then forced to carry the cross beam weighing over 100 pounds to the place of execution. In Jesus’ case, it was 650 yards from the fortress of Atonia to Golgotha. An upright post fixed in the ground was planted where the execution itself would take place. Heavy square wrought iron nails were driven through the wrists and the cross beam. Then the victim was hoisted upward, experiencing cramps sweeping over his musculature until he was unable to breathe but spasmodically. Carbon dioxide would build up in the lungs and finally suffocate the victim. If one did not die soon enough, the legs would be broken at the shins to allow the suffocation to complete its work. Sounds pleasant doesn’t it?

This is the beginning of the reality of redemptive suffering. As that wise old Jewish psychiatrist, Victor Frankl discovered and recorded in his book of Nazi prison camp experience, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, suffering can be endured if it can find a redemptive purpose. Jesus had such a purpose: ME and YOU! God had such a purpose in Me and You! In You and Me....How did we get here? As the Eucharist says in the Roman Catholic Rite: “on the night he was handed over to death, a death he freely accepted...” Here we get a clue: death freely accepted. Have you ever noticed how many times they tried to kill Jesus and He just didn’t let them? He was in control of his destiny until the appointed time when he gave himself up to death. What was this death? For the Son of God it was “to be crucified.” We say it rather glibly, casually, as though it was a stroll on a Sunday afternoon in our creeds. What would it take to make it real to us? Would it be if it were a friend, a boy or girl friend, a parent, a wife or husband, a child...but a God??? the God??? Or do we not crucify him ourselves sometimes as we use our mouths to crucify his children? Do we take responsibility for our destinies in what we say and do as children of God? And if not, are we children of this redemptive death in God?

We are tonight where the rubber meets the road, where God really puts his “money” where his mouth is. In fact, God calls this emissary of his Name, “the Word made flesh.” The Gospels devote more time to Jesus’ passion and death than to any other thing. Why is this? When I was a younger person, all my teachers of faith could only seemingly speak about the “resurrection.” “This” I was told, “was the point of it all.” When people saw a crucifix hanging on a wall, the response would most likely be something to the effect that “don’t you know that Jesus isn’t on the cross anymore?’ (Duh!) When they saw a crucifix, they would only think, “Roman Catholic” and miss the profound mystery, the more significant mystery of his life lived: the crucifixion.

St. Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified!”. Hardly a good P.R. piece. Why would they acclaim this? Because of what it was; because of what it did; because of what it does for us. It finished the plan of how we can be made new creations, reborn children of God in Jesus Christ, the Salvation of God. When he died, he cried out...“Tetelestai”, “it is finished” “it is accomplished!” A cry, a lonely cry that has echoed across the 2000 years since and the thousands of years before! Tetelestai!

Blessed Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. .. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" ‑‑ I Corinthians 2:1-9

“None of the rulers of this age understood it,” Paul wrote. Who are they? The demons, the Devil’s armies and those on earth that seek to destroy humanity as a slap in the face to God. Many still do not understand it. Many in the Church seemingly do not “get it” and so Jesus remains an enigma to them. The way to understanding is the way of the cross. Let us come and die with him tonight. It was an “inside job”, but it is an “inside job” that he accomplishes in each who comes to him. Have we pain? Come to Jesus. Have we need of being healed? Come to Jesus. Have we lost hope? Come to Jesus. He is seeking each of us to make us whole. By His Wounds we are healed. AMEN

All posts copyright – RRMB+ 2020, 2021, 2022

Restoration Pointe Community Church (Anglican)

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