ET2 – 7 Apr 2023
Why did Jesus die?
Message by: Fr Richard M Healey
Reflection on Good Friday, after the Passion of John
When I was a kid, the only thing that I seemed to want to do was to be older and bigger, you know, big enough that I was able to go out the back with my older brothers, with Dad on the tractor, big enough that we I could go with dad when he’d go. To work as. A builder. Then when I myself did get older, then other goals became the objective. You know, wanted to be old enough in order to be able to drive. Old enough that they could vote. And maybe occasionally old enough so that I could drink. We have this sense, you know, that when we’re young, we want to be older.
But there’s some point in our life when suddenly that changes. We no longer will want to be old enough. We no longer want to be a grown up. Suddenly we want to be young. Again, we want to go back. We want to be mistaken for someone who is younger. So, I have to admit I took great delight this week. I was visiting the hospital. And going to these patients who weren’t parishioners, they were from another parish. And so they didn’t know me and we prayed and ministered. After I left, I kind of heard them say what a lovely young priest. And I thought, yes, I’ve still got it! Even though the the grey hairs are starting to to come out and I know that I can’t grow a beard because it’s fully grey.
In that sense that we have, we’re afraid of growing up. We’re afraid of all of the consequences that happen, and I joke with my friends that you know, I’m starting to make old man noises when I get in and out of the car. You know those groans and grunts that I make to kind of get in and out. There is that reality, that death doesn’t seem to be a really positive thing!
Death doesn’t seem to be the thing that most of us are looking forward to. And so on this day that we call Good Friday, which focuses almost entirely on the suffering and death of Messiah, it seems this odd thing. You know, why on Earth do we call this day good? Why on Earth do we honour? And acknowledge just the brutal suffering, the passion of Jesus. You know, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. What is it that is happening in all of? That and it kind of leads to the question of: Why did Jesus die?
Why was it necessary that that happened to him? Why was that essential and when? We read through. The Scriptures and we try and and make sense of that. You know, we we walk away. With perhaps a whole lot of different ideas. You know, if you ask a priest if you ask a catechist if you ask. And someone who has studied and pondered upon these things. You know, if you ask five different people, why did Jesus die? You’ll probably walk away with a dozen different ideas cause we all have different notions and different traditions and different churches and different theologians continue to maintain those different ideas about satisfaction. And about atonement theories and and all of these kinds of ideas that really. In the end, kind of feel a bit cold and leave us kind of wondering what’s all this about when you search the scriptures, you find Paul saying something like that Jesus died in fulfilment of the scriptures in fulfilment of the Bible. And you wonder. Well, where in the Bible is that fulfilment and you get some of those hints in our first reading today, the 4th of the servant songs in the Prophet Isaiah.
But I think it’s when you go back further, when you go back to the very beginning of the story and the story of. The story of why God originally created us and we’re told that when the Lord God fashioned the Adam, the the human from the adama, the from the dirt from the clay. He took him and fashioned him and then breathed life, breathed the breath of the Spirit into the mouth of the Adam to give that one life, and then took him from that desert place and took him to the garden and placed him. In the garden that the garden becomes the centre point, the garden becomes the. Where God is able to be with us, that God is able to just be in relationship, be in friendship with us, and at the centre of the garden with these two trees. These two choices that were there, the Tree of Life and the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, the tree of knowledge of Tove and Rod. Good and bad, and we’re invited to eat of all of the garden fruit of all of the trees, and indeed to eat at the tree of life. But don’t eat of this tree because I the Lord. Want to show you and teach you and invite you into life and into friendship so that you will know the answers to all of these questions about what is good and what is bad.
You don’t need to eat that tree yourself. You just need to trust. You just need to let me invite you more deeply into life. But we know the story. We know that choice, that the man and the woman made to eat of that tree themselves because they wanted to know the answers themself. Rather than trusting rather than relying on God’s love and life and goodness to allow them to experience that fullness of intimacy with God, and the consequence of that is. They had to be exile. They’re no longer there in the centre of the garden. They’re back out in the world in this back out. In the desert place. And that’s where we live. That’s where most of our lives are. We’re out there in the wilderness, away from God. We have these brief moments of intimacy and and beauty and and glory and that sense of of being brought into that beautiful relationship with God. But then we stuff it up. Then we make mistakes. Then we allow our addictions and our dysfunction and all of our family history to kind of get in the way of that friendship with God that is continually calling us into continually inviting us back into life.
And we get it wrong. And again and again. And so Jesus is there on the cross because he knew that there was no other way that we would believe that exile, that separation. And God had been overcome. He’s there on the cross with his arms stretched wide, embracing us, inviting us, calling us to come back in to the gift of. Life John’s gospel doesn’t record this moment. But in Synoptics, we’re told that at the moment that Jesus died, the veil of the temple that is there. To provide that separation, to provide that reminder that we can no longer go back into the garden, we can no longer go back into that easy friendship and relationship. We’ve got the veil of the curtain, is there to separate us from God, but at the moment that Jesus surrendered, the moment that he gave his life there, the veil of the temple, the curtain is torn not from the bottom, didn’t come from humanity came from the top. It’s separated, it’s torn asunder. From top to bottom because the way has now been made open once again, we can receive that life of God and we can receive the gift of, of friendship and easy relationship with the Lord.
Today, as always, we get to choose. Today we get to to make a decision. When I look at Jesus on the cross, what is my response? When I look at him? Do I still allow all of my sins, all of my dysfunction, all of my addictions, all of the things that I think kind of define me, all those dark things that every single one of us has. Do we allow all that to remain hidden or do we open? It to his love, he’s there on the cross, looking deeply, lovingly at us, and all he wants is to get rid of our junk. All he wants is to open the way so that we no longer have to be afraid of growing old and dying. All that he wants, all that he longs for is for that death that he endures. To be for us our salvation and to be for us the victory to be for us the entry back into that easy relationship with God in the garden. But it relies entirely on us. It’s our choice. It’s our decision. Will I trust him? Will I let his love penetrate not just the good parts, the exterior parts, the things that I like others to know about me? But will I let him his love? Penetrate more deeply into those dark parts, those hidden parts, those things that I don’t really want to be broadcast across the Internet.
And if I say yes, if I open the door just a little to God’s love and to God’s grace and I let that love of Jesus as he looks at me from the cross. And if I let him love me in those places in that moment, in that place of darkness, that’s when everything changes. That’s when life begins. That’s when freedom begins. That’s when I can experience the goodness of what God is inviting me to. And the. Choice is. These hours. Lord, help us help us to open our hearts to trust. That when you look at me when you love me. All you want to do is to heal me. To forgive me, to restore me, to renew me. Lord, help me to trust in that.