“They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.”
No doubt this text from the prophet Zechariah would seem
more appropriate to the darkness of Good Friday than to the glory of the
Easter season. “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” And yet,
Good Friday is not just some tragic accident, reversed and cancelled out by
the miracle of Easter; rather, as today’s scripture lessons tell us, there
is an intimate and necessary connection between the two, and we will not
understand one without the other. The Risen Lord appeared to his disciples
and said to them: “Peace be upon you. And when he had so said, he showed
unto them his hands and his side.” The peace and forgiveness of which he
speaks will not be understood apart from these sacred wounds. “This is he
who came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ” – this is he who came by the
water and blood of crucifixion. “They shall look upon me whom they have
But just what are we to see when we look upon the
crucified? What peace is there, what surety of forgiveness do we find in
gazing on those wounds? The point is simply this: the wounds of Christ are
the demonstration of the charity of God. The crucifixion of the Son of God,
you see, is not just some tragic accident. On a certain level it is, of
course, the work of human wickedness, and shows how far that wickedness can
go; but that is not the deepest truth of it. More profoundly, it is the
demonstration of the charity of God: “For God so loved the world that he
gave his only Begotten Son…” He was wounded, because he freely willed for
it so to be.
What we see when we look upon the crucified is that
charity of God, a charity which goes even down to death, and will not stop
until it harrows hell itself. “He descended into hell” says our Creed.
Easter does not contradict Good Friday; rather, Easter is the declaration
that the charity of God, which we see on Calvary, conquers hell itself; and
is eternal life and resurrection. It is a charity which gives all, and
therefore loses nothing.
O all-sufficient sacrifice,
Beneath thee hell defeated lies;
Thy captive people are set free,
And endless life restored in thee.
“They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” We are
to look upon this charity of God, lifted up upon the cross. “As Moses
lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so much the Son of Man be
lifted up: and whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
eternal life.” The Son of Man is lifted up, that we may look upon, and
believe the charity of God. We are to look upon and believe that charity,
till it becomes the very substance of our minds and hearts, till it
penetrates to every darkest corner of our dark souls, and conquers every
hell-bent force within us.
Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing.
Oh let it freely burn,
Till earthly passions turn
To dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
And let thy glorious light
Shine ever on my sight,
And clothe me round, the while my path
(Hymn 487 Book of Common Praise, 1938,
We are to look upon and believe the charity of God in
Jesus Christ and that is the beginning, the new birth and nutriment of
charity in us. “He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in
himself; and this is the witness that God has given to us, eternal
life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the son hath life; and he
that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” To know the charity of God is
to overcome the world; “and this is the victory that overcometh the world,
even our faith,” because faith knows the charity of God.
“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” So says
the Risen Lord to his disciples. It is the office of the Church to believe
the witness of the Son of God, and to have that witness in itself. That is
to say, it is the office of the Church to look upon the charity of God, to
declare and live that charity. That is the very substance of the sacraments
we celebrate. In baptism, we celebrate that charity which calls us to be
the sons of God and heirs of life eternal; we celebrate the beginning, the
new birth, of the life of faith. In the Eucharist, we celebrate the
sacrifice of Christ, that the very charity of God may be our bread and wine,
our food and drink. And that is the forgiveness of our sins.
But charity in us, it seems, is always only just begun.
Easter in us, it seems, is only just begun. It is like a seed, planted
deeply in the soil; the new life must break through the rotting husk, and
make its way toward the source of warmth and light. Our new birth is a
struggle, certainly not without the pain of travail. How our sins and
doubts oppress and weigh us down; how we waver and shilly-shally and even
lose heart, how we wish there was just some simple, practical advice on how
we should go about our task!
“They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” There
is simple, practical advice – perhaps, indeed, too simple for our taste:
look upon the charity of God in Jesus Christ – don’t fuss about your sins
and wallow in your wretchedness; that is at best a useless occupation, and,
at worst, a road to hell. It is the wrong focus of attention. Rather, look
upon the charity of God, see the hands and side of Christ, and believe that
charity which forgives your sins, and rejoice in life eternal. The devil
doesn’t really rule, and Easter scoffs at his pretensions.
Look upon the charity of God in Jesus Christ. Perhaps we
don’t see very clearly. “Now, we see through a glass darkly,” says St.
Paul – we see as one might see a rather cloudy image in a mirror. But keep
looking. Easter has begun in us. Spring has begun in us, and the new life
will rise to bask in the warmth and light of God. “Now we know in part, and
prophesy in part, but then, we shall see face to face, and know even as we