What is the cross? It is an instrument of death, one of the cruelest ever devised by sinful men. What is the cross? It is an instrument of life, the most glorious ever given. What is the cross? It is two pieces of wood, hewn from some tree, discarded or used again to put another condemned man to death. What is the cross? It is the eternal declaration of salvation, standing forever to declare that sin has been paid for, death destroyed. What is the cross? It is a moment in time, when the sun was darkened, the earth shook, and the Son of God suffered for all, for you and me. What is the cross? It is the event on which history turns, it fills all history, reaching backwards and forwards to reconcile man with God. We don’t worship the cross on Good Friday, or any other day for that matter; we worship the one who hung on that cross.
On the first three days of Holy Week, we meditated on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, and Saint Luke. Today, on Good Friday, we turn to Saint John. In Saint John’s Passion, Jesus is clearly in command of His Passion, in fulfillment of His own words earlier in the gospel: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus exercises this authority, giving Himself into the hands of the soldiers after making them cower with fear from the thunder of His voice. He tells Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” He gives His mother into the hands of John, and then He is the one who gives up His own spirit. No one takes His life from Him, but He gives it up into the hands of death on His own accord. He does this willingly for you; at the end of the reading this night, as you hear the Passion in all of its excruciating details, remember these simple words: He did it all for you.