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Good Friday

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest Good Friday It is finished... Nineteenth-century German theologian, Martin Kähler, is credited with having once described the four canonical Gospels as Passion Narratives with extremely long introductions. The description quickly caught on, at least among New Testament scholars, and is apt in many ways; for the stories of our Lord’s life, as unfolded in the various Gospel accounts, culminate invariably in his death on the Cross, the Passion Narrative, in other words, as related by each of the Evangelists, and each of course in his own unique way; an event which we gather today to commemorate, and in some ways, even celebrate, if we think about the creation and life which has been given to us by Christ’s own death. Now, a corollary of Kähler’s thesis, if I can call it that, is that the Gospels themselves were likely written backwards. In other words, according to the experts, the oldest part of each written Gospel is not its Infancy Narrative, but rather its Passion Narrative, the story of Jesus’s death. For, that is in a sense where the Gospel begins, and where it ends. That is what, to the early Church, was most important; what was essential. That needed to be told and remembered. That needed to be recounted and proclaimed. That in essence told us almost everything we need to know about Jesus and his mission here on earth. What comes before the Cross, the miracles, the discourses and sermons, the healings, simply reinforces what comes after. And almost needless to say, without the death of Jesus there would be no Gospel at all. In fact, no life at all. Kähler’s remark is perhaps especially fitting when considering the Gospel of John, from which the Good Friday Passion Narrative is traditionally drawn, as it is of course today as well. For, if you count the story of the Last Supper as part of the overall Passion Narrative, which seems sensible to do, John’s narration encompasses fully seven chapters of his Gospel as opposed to the two chapters devoted to the Passion Narratives in the other three Gospels, although needless to say we heard only two of those seven chapters from John’s Passion Narrative today. John’s story of the death of our Lord by the way also includes elements not found in the other Gospels; such as the washing of the disciples’ feet and the

long Last Supper discourse. Curiously, on the other hand, John omits elements found elsewhere in the other Gospels: the so-called Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as the role of Simon of Cyrene in carrying the Cross of our Lord. Nor does John, for reasons the scholars continue to debate to this day, include in his narration the words of institution at the Last Supper; in other words, in John’s Gospel there is no this is my body; this is my blood. But perhaps most tellingly of all, at least to my thinking, are the very last words of the earthly Jesus in the Gospel of John, it is finished, words again not recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke; in which the last words of our Lord are, in effect, into your hands I commend my spirit. It is finished is qualitatively different. These words bring us back forcefully to the very first words of John’s Gospel itself, in the beginning was the Word, and perhaps more forcefully still, the Word was made flesh. Our Lord is announcing then with his last words the fulfillment of his purpose on earth; in a sense, the fulfillment of creation itself; God made flesh. Creation, we could almost say, is itself written or created backwards; for Creation in a very real sense begins at the Cross, at Christ’s death. It is finished are also of course words of hope. For, what was finished at the Cross, Creation itself, continues and is fulfilled or finished, in the life of each of us here today. Our lives too are Passion Narratives with extremely long introductions, whether our lives be long or short by human standards. Our lives in Christ only make sense in the Cross; only make sense to the extent that we share in Christ’s own Passion, in the Passion Narrative. It is for this reason that many sages and saints refer to the Cross as the tree of life; indeed the tree of paradise itself. And so, we live our spiritual lives in Christ backwards, always in the shadow of the Cross; always remembering what it means to be alive in Christ. Always filled with hope. Yes, it is finished. The work of redemption is done, to be sure, but it continues in the lives of each of us. The contradiction of the Cross remains forever the paradox of life; it is only in giving of ourselves fully, as did our Lord at Calvary, that we find any meaning to existence at all, indeed, any existence, period. The Cross, finally, reminds us that our broken world probably cannot be fixed, but it can be healed; it can be created anew from the wood of the Cross. And we can be a part of that healing and creation. But only through the Cross. It is finished. Therefore, my friends, let us begin. Amen. The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs

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