Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Tre Ore

Good Friday Tre Ore

Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 18, 2014

Text: John 19:23-27 (ESV): When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

            “God sets the solitary in families” (Ps. 68:6; NKJV).  The LORD “upholds the widow and the fatherless” (Ps. 146:9; ESV).  And so, from the cross, where He bears the load of this world’s sin, including yours and mine, as He drinks the bitter cup of the Father’s wrath for our transgressions, still He beholds with compassion His dear mother and the disciple whom He loved.  Mary, whose name means “bitter,” now tastes the bitterness of her dear Son’s shame and misery, as the sword prophesied by Simeon pierces her own soul also (Luke 2:35).  John, that son of thunder who would call down fire from heaven to defend his Teacher’s honor (Luke 9:54), now looks on as that same Teacher languishes, a despised object of torture.  The Lord provides, even in His death.  The Lord provides precisely in His death.  Mary will need a son, someone to take her into his home, provide for her, love her.  John will need a mother, someone to console him, speak words of wisdom to him, nurture him in the way that mothers do, especially in the midst of tragedy and grief.  And so our Lord speaks. 
            “Woman, behold, your son!”  He calls her “woman,” not “Mom,” and we’ve heard this before, when He accomplished His first sign at the wedding in Cana, making water into wine (John 2:1-11).  “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come,” He said to Mary on that occasion (v. 4).  Now His hour has come, and once again He calls her “woman.”  This may seem rather cold to us, but He is speaking to her now not in His vocation as her Son, but in His Office as her Savior and her providing Lord.  He is speaking to her now not in her Office as His mother, but in her vocation as Christian, object of His saving work and receiver of His gifts.  Just as He gave her fine wine those three years past, now He gives her John, which means “Gift of the LORD.”  And the beautiful thing here is that in receiving John, Mary receives the very Son she thinks she is losing on the cross, for what did Jesus promise His disciples?  “Whoever receives you receives me” (Matt. 10:40).  And more than that, she receives God as her Father, for “whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
            John also receives a gift, a mother to honor, that it may be well with him and that he may live long in the land (Cf. Eph. 6:2-3), and tradition says that John lived to a ripe old age and was the only apostle to die a peaceful death.  “Behold, your mother!” Jesus says to him.  Love her.  Cherish her as you would your own mother.  For in loving her, you love me.
            Do you see what the Lord is doing here?  He is bringing together a family.  He is calling together the Church around His blood and cross.  He sets the solitary in families by His suffering and death.  He upholds the widow and the orphan with His arms outstretched and nailed to the wood.  And what He does for John and for Mary, He does for you.  For you, who have been separated from God and from one another by your sins.  For you, who have erected a dividing wall of hostility between yourself and those who have sinned against you.  For you, who have held grudges, burnt bridges, failed to forgive as you have been forgiven.  For you, who have suffered broken hearts, broken relationships.  For you, who are separated from loved ones by distance or time.  For you, who have had loved ones ripped away from you by death or divorce or tragic circumstances whatever they may be.  All of that has been nailed to the cross.  Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility in His flesh (Eph. 2:14).  And now Jesus makes you whole and gives you a gift.  He gives you your brothers and sisters in Christ.  He gives you your mother, the Church.  He gives you the fellow members of His Body as family.  And He gives you to them.  “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” says the Lord (Matt. 12:50).  “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).  Christians are the family of Christ.  He gives us one to another, to love each other, to take care of each other, to counsel one another and build one another up in the most holy faith of Christ,   He gives us one to another, gathered around the blood and water poured forth from His side into chalice and font, gathered around His Body and Blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, in one Holy Communion.  And in this way the crucified and risen Christ provides for us so that we are not alone in this time between His comings when He is hidden from our eyes.  Present with us, but hidden where He has promised to be, in His Word and Sacraments, to unite us as one in the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren, the Church.
            And so, beloved, you are never alone.  Not even in grief and sadness.  Not even in suffering and death.  God sets the solitary in this family.  The Lord has built you a house in His Body (Ps. 127).  He has given you God as your Father, the Church as your mother, brothers and sisters and children here in this place, gathered around the fruits of His cross, gathered around the Christian family Table.  Around this Table are not only those you see with your eyes, but angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, the saints of all times and all places.  And here the Lord has made a place for you.  Behold, your brothers and sisters and mother.  Behold, your Savior, Jesus Christ, who by His cross has made this your reality.  Welcome home.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.



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