Home      Back to Good Friday       





Sermon for Good Friday

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, NS

March 29, AD 2002


“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”


The last word from the cross captures the inner meaning of the Passion of Jesus Christ.  All the sin that separates man from God has been gathered into the Son.  He bears the full weight of that separation.  He experiences to the fullest extent the distance between man and God that sin creates.  It is the only thing that sin ‘creates’ - separation and distance where unity and intimacy are wanted.


The weight of the cross which Jesus carried and under which he fell three times, gives place to his own physical weight bearing down upon his hands and feet. No doubt these physical weights weigh not so heavily as the spiritual weight of sin pressing down upon the soul, but they make it visible to us.  We are here, but here is there, where we are all in the company “beholding these things”.  Sin’s “double agony” of suffering and death bears down upon him in his body.


The last word of the Son, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” heralds his death and the completeness of his sacrifice.  All has been gathered into the Son so that all may be offered up to the Father.  This is the great good of this Good Friday, this day of agony and death.


“All we like sheep have gone astray”.  It is such a gentle image for such a hideous reality.  Sin dehumanizes us and renders us like beasts and monsters.  We become so much less than ourselves.  Man apart from God is a vain thing.  We invest our wills, our hearts, our desires in the things which do not and cannot satisfy, in the things which are not adequate to our soul’s true and infinite desire for the infinite good.  And if we persist in our inordinate affections, either willing too eagerly and excessively something beyond its created capacity and the truth of its being, or willing sluggishly what demands more ardent fire, or willing perversely what is intended for other purposes and ends, then we will find that our love has itself grown cold, passive and ugly, ourselves become hardened, embittered and frozen like a pond in the dead of winter.  There is no spring in our souls.


Sin extinguishes the flame of love.  It stalls the very motions of the soul and leads to the cold, frozen immobility so clearly imagined by Dante.  Without motion, without love there can be no activity and no delight in what is other, no life, no vitality, no vigour.  The Church reminds us at the approach of Lent that “all our doings without charity are nothing worth”.  This is precisely the point of our Lenten pilgrimage which brings us to the cross.  Christ opens out to us the divine love which takes all our doings of uncharitableness, all our unloveliness, into his charity.  His passion opens out to us the love of God.


There he hangs, rendered immobile by the great weight of our sins, our sufferings, and our deaths, transfixed by the nails of our sinfulness.  There he is stretched upon the cross, his body frozen in the very grip of death.  He takes upon himself the full immobility of sin.  He gathers it all into himself.  Sin’s still weight holds him.


Yet with the increasing burden and experience of sin’s weight pressing down upon him - the weight of the whole world as turned away from God - the passion for the eternal good remains.  The weight which renders him immobile does not hinder the operation of the inner spring of love in his spirit.  He gathers his approaching death into his charity.  The death which stills the soul will be taken into the heart of divine love.


“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”.  Christ wills his whole being into the hands of the Father.  He has gathered all sin into himself in the double agony of suffering and death.  He wills to die our death.  But what moves in the passion of Christ is his pure love for the eternal good.  He makes our sins, our sufferings and our deaths into an offering of worship to the Father.  The very being of the Son is to do the will of him who sent him.


Thus, here, at the approaching climax of Christ’s passion we see the divine thing at work.  Something is made from nothing.  That is divine.  Full oppressed and weighted down with the burden of our sins intolerable, he offers worship.  This is the true righteousness.  This is the truth of his eternal sonship.  And this is, too, the vision of true humanity whose end and purpose is the loving knowledge of God.


The fruit of Christ’s passion will be his resurrection.  But the logic of that is already present in his passion without regard for its fruit.  The offering of worship here makes something out of nothing which will issue forth in the resurrection of the body.  He endures not only the death on the cross but also the descent into Hell.  All has been gathered into the Son so that in worship all things may be offered to the Father.


Christ’s passion for the eternal good underlies his willingness to take upon himself all that makes us accursed to God.  He is made sin for us.  Here at Calvary we see in the figure of the Crucified the truth of our sins.  We see in him the meaning of our self-willed separation from God.  We see in him the full force and fury of human folly and wickedness and of all evil.


It is our good on this day we call “Good” Friday to behold Christ Crucified.  “They shall look upon him whom they pierced”, as the prophet Zechariah says.  We come to the cross to see our sins made objective to us in all the hideousness and deformity of the cross, what Herbert calls “this strange and uncouth thing” (George Herbert, The Crosse).  There are our sins and there is all sin itself.


We behold his wounds.  They are the wounds which we inflict upon ourselves and upon one another, even in the house of friends.  As Zechariah says about these wounds, “They are the wounds I received in the house of my friends” (13.6).


We come to the cross to see our sins which pierce him and so must we be pierced.  Look and be pierced, for he dies our death for our sins.  Look upon him whom our sins have pierced.  Look and pierce your sins which are the cause of his passion.  But above all, look and love.  Here is the love of God.


We behold Christ’s charity on this day.  For to see our sins in Christ is to know his love who bears them.  “He was pierced with love no less than with grief” as one of our Anglican divines, Lancelot Andrewes, puts it, “and it was that wound of love which made him so constantly to endure all the other...”


Christ’s charity opens out to us the infinite fellowship of the Son’s love for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit.  The crucifixion reveals the infinite charity of the Trinity.  In the very grip of death we behold the greater embrace of love.


It is, perhaps, best captured for us in a stone-carved image of the Holy Trinity found in the little church of Compton Regis in England.  It is best described by Austin Farrer:


There he hangs, crucified, but on no visible cross: The nails fix him directly to the palms of the Father enthroned, who sits, his elbows in his lap, his hands spread out. The Father’s countenance is calm compassion, from his mouth downwards and a little aside a dove flies toward the thorn-encircled head. The Son is nailed to his Father’s will; he makes his sacrifice through the spirit of his Father’s benediction.


Only so can we be blessed on this day! The Son is nailed to the Father’s will - nailed to a greater good than all our evil on this day. It is the will of the Son to be so nailed.


“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”