Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Good Friday, Gospel Saturday
Volume 6 No. 340 March 24, 2016
II. Featured Articles on Good Friday

Inspiration: Love and Joy Perfected
John 15 (NKJV)

9 "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
17 These things I command you, that you love one another."

How Jesus Faced His Friday

by Max Lucado

Everyone struggled on crucifixion Friday: The disciples struggled to keep faith. Pilate struggled to save face. Faithful women struggled to help Jesus. Pharisees struggled to discredit Jesus. Soldiers struggled to hurt Jesus.

But no one struggled more than Jesus. People called him a liar, beat him with sticks, and plastered his face with spit. They yanked chunks of flesh from his back with a hook-tipped whip, crucified him naked in front of family and friends.

What few friends there were….when falsely accused, no one defended him. When he stumbled beneath the weight of the cross, no one came to help him. When hung up to die, no one rescued him.

How did Jesus endure such an ordeal?

Here is how Jesus turned a day of suffering into Good Friday. "…for the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross." (Heb. 12:2 NKJV).

Jesus faced his Friday by looking into eternity. By making Heaven bigger, his pain became smaller. Follow him through Friday and listen in on his thoughts.

Daybreak: He tells his accusers, "The Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Mighty God" (Lk. 22:69 NIV). Matthew's Gospel adds these words: "In the future you will see the Son of Man…coming on the clouds of Heaven" (Mt. 26:64 NIV).

When interrogated by Pilate later in the day, Jesus' mind still lingers in Heaven. "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn. 18:36 NIV). Jesus kept lifting his eyes upward. "You would have no power if it were not given to you from above" (Jn. 19:11 NIV).

Jesus faced His Friday by facing eternity.

Let's do likewise. As Heaven grows, our struggles lessen.

© Max Lucado, 2013

Surrender at Gethsemane

by Greg Laurie

Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch."
- Mark 14:34

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt as though your friends and family had abandoned you? Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood? Have you ever had a hard time understanding or submitting to the will of God for your life?

If so, then you have an idea of what the Lord Jesus went through as He agonized at Gethsemane.

Hebrews tells us, "This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it" (4:15–16 nlt).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was "a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief" (Isaiah 53:3 nlt). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known and would accelerate to a climax the following day. The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was first accomplished beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.

It is interesting that the very word Gethsemane means "olive press." Olives were pressed there to make oil, and truly, Jesus was being pressed from all sides that He might bring life to us. I don't think we can even begin to fathom what He was going through.

But look at what it accomplished. It brought about your salvation and mine. Because of what Jesus went through at Gethsemane and ultimately at the cross, we can call upon His name. Though it was an unfathomably painful, horrific transition, it was necessary for the ultimate goal of what was accomplished.

Maybe you are at a crisis point in your life right now - a personal Gethsemane, if you will. You have your will; you know what you want. Yet you can sense that God's will is different.

Would you let the Lord choose for you? Would you be willing to say, "Lord, I am submitting my will to Yours. Not my will, but yours be done"? You will not regret making that decision.

Copyright © 2012 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

Good Friday Reflections - Nakedness
Part 1: At The Garden

by Fr Christopher Woods


One of the most profound subtexts and themes, which runs through both the gospel texts and the experience of the Christian life, is that of nakedness and vulnerability.

We are rarely comfortable with ourselves, with our own nakedness, never mind our nakedness in the public sphere; it's more easily avoided or not talked about, but sadly, because of this, we can easily fall into dysmorphia. And that is true whether we talk about physical nakedness or emotional/spiritual nakedness.

So much for our own insecurity which stretches beyond the physical. In fact, insecurity is rarely about physicality at all. But what happens in physical terms is extremely connected to our emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. They cannot be divorced.

When we talk of emotional/spiritual nakedness, we are of course talking about our vulnerability, our exposure to effectual change and about baring our souls and true selves to both criticism/rejection and love/acceptance in the face of others. More than that, of course, it's about being exposed to criticism and love/acceptance in the face of ourselves, in the mirror. My biggest critic is not my enemy or my friend, or God, but myself. One of the biggest difficulties of the contemporary person is bitterly excessive self-loathing or self-criticism, which of course is projected onto others and onto God. If I cannot look at myself as I am, then how can someone else accept me or how can God accept me? And then finally it's about being exposed to the judgement and love/acceptance in the face of the crucified Christ on this Good Friday. Of course the difference between God and everyone else is that with God there is no danger of rejection or criticism. There is loving judgement, a refining acceptance, because none of us has the purity and intensity of love which is God. That is profoundly central to the mystery of the Cross and it is what I shall explore in this portion of time when we contemplate the death of Christ who was naked, alone and abandoned on the Tree of Life.

Address 1 - Reading: Mark 14:43–52

Immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, 'The one I will kiss is the man; arrest Him and lead Him away under guard.' So when he came, he went up to Him at once and said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed Him. Then they laid hands on Him and arrested Him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, 'Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.' All of them deserted Him and fled.

A certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

Where are we as Jesus is betrayed and arrested? From which angle do we experience Jesus' agonising trial? Are we amongst the soldiers armed with clubs and swords? Perhaps we are behind the soldiers, in the stampede of a crowd which follows under the light of the paschal moon through the damp thickets of the Garden of Gethsemane, trying desperately to see a glimpse of the action. Perhaps we are standing scared with the disciples huddling behind a tree trying not to be seen?

Or are we with the young man who is wearing nothing but the linen cloth, and then, in a fearful stupor, we run away naked?

Jewish culture abhorred nakedness. It was humiliating and much too pagan. So the presence of a naked young man is unusual and forces questions to be asked. This young man 'in the prime of his life' as the Greek suggests, who somehow for some reason in a state of panic or in a flurry of military struggle, has his linen garment torn off and runs away into the distance, closely following all the other disciples who fled, who left Jesus alone with the soldiers.

I do hazard a guess that we might identify with this young man? At least if we don't identify directly with him, then surely we wonder at his identity or the significance of his presence? Was he a follower of Christ?

Another disciple (some say St Mark) or a stranger? We're not sure. Perhaps we, like him, want to run away from the vulnerable Jesus, because it forces us to examine our own nakedness and vulnerability? We are used to the controlled Jesus, the One who is masterful and authoritative and who teaches us and who is glorious and strong. The naked man runs away not necessarily from the soldiers and the batons and the clubs and swords, I would suggest, but rather from the sight of the betrayed Jesus, fearful that he might be identified with this powerless rabbi, in whose words and actions so many people had placed their reliance. Perhaps the young man is unable to confront his own vulnerability?

In our liturgy of the Last Supper last night, I suggested that we are called by Jesus, somehow, to allow ourselves to become spiritually naked, to become vulnerable and become comfortable in that nakedness and vulnerability and to set aside our fear of rejection and our pride. By embodying the nakedness which the Jewish culture so fiercely abhorred, Jesus once again turns this cultural prejudice on its head and allows nakedness to become a thing of beauty and of potential strength. Just as Jesus got down on His hands and knees to wash the feet of His disciples, so are we called both to get down and get dirty for the sake of love, but also in that same servant vulnerability, simultaneously allow ourselves to be loved in our nakedness and vulnerability. To love and to be loved. It's harder to feel accepted and loved than it often is to love other people. Yet how can we love others if we do not love ourselves?

So now, as Jesus is being bound and pulled and thrown about and chained and cuffed and punched, what are we doing? Where is this naked young man taking us?

In the struggle and panic of life with its pressures, busy-ness and complications, joys and sorrows, we are occasionally, perhaps not often, but occasionally, forced to face up to our own true selves. The protection and mask of the outer clothing has to come off. Either because someone who knows us almost better than we know ourselves realises what's going on in our mind, or perhaps the vibe we give to others is all too overwhelming to avoid. Perhaps we crack under the pressure of hiding away? Perhaps we cannot keep on the linen garment of our veneer any longer, and in the squabble and struggle of daily life our layers get torn off and we have nowhere to go, so we try to run away, naked, vulnerable, scared, sobbing, trying to escape from the centre and source of love, not realising that we are in fact running away from love, rather than towards it?

The truth of the matter is that the disciples, like this solitary young man who loses his linen garment, have nowhere to go. We have nowhere to go. We think we can hide from God, but we can't. We run fast and we run far, but we cannot hide. We might think Jesus is going in the other direction, but of course we are just fooling ourselves. In our naked vulnerability, we cannot hide.

Some words from Psalm 139 (vv7–10) ring loudly in our ears, at this point, do they not?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If you feel that you are running fast and running far and in your nakedness and vulnerability and the thickets of the world's distractions, you cannot see where you are going, then let's imagine what happened next to that young man who left his clothes behind. What do you think happened to him? Did he fall, graze his naked body and become bruised and sore? Or did he stop and think that he was foolish to think that he could get away? Perhaps he stopped, turned and went back and followed Jesus, the soldiers and the crowds and Peter, to the Sanhedrin.

We don't have to run any more. Yes, we may be afraid, but after all, it is not us whom the soldiers want. It's Jesus who has been arrested - He is the One they want.

Good Friday Reflections - Nakedness
Part 2: Jesus on The Way to Calvary To Be Crucified

by Fr Christopher Woods

Address 2 - Reading: Matthew 27:27–31

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on His head. They put a reed in His right hand and knelt before Him and mocked Him, saying, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' They spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. After mocking Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him.

So, in front of the whole crowd of jeering, jibing soldiers, Jesus is stripped, naked and bruised. The level of a human's humiliation has never gone this far before. In their abhorrence of nakedness, they decide to humiliate Jesus by making Him the object of their hate. He, in His nakedness, is the personification of their hatred of everyone and everything. Can this vulnerability become any less acute?

It's almost as if the soldiers are becoming obsessed with the physicality of Jesus, His body, His suffering, taking out their own fear and psychological trauma on Him. Kneeling in front of Him, spitting on Him and so on.

So in this scapegoating of that which they revile and hate within themselves, in this utter terrifying torture, these soldiers are in some way trying to fight off their own demons. They hate the task which they have been ordered to do, they hate the fact that they have been entrusted to do it, but they lose themselves in the violence of it. And according to Matthew, Jesus stands there, says and does nothing. Never before have the words of Isaiah 53 rung so powerfully in the depths of our imagination:

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.

Reminded we might be of the dreadfully shocking pictures and stories of abuse of many naked Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad of a couple of years ago. The sickenly shocking events that took place there compare, one would imagine, to the kind of things to which Jesus would have been subjected. I'm not on an anti-military rant at all, but when human beings come together in situations of tension, war and conflict, then dreadful things can potentially happen. Hugely shocking acts of evil and indecency. Humans can treat other humans like animals, or like pieces of meat, humiliating them to the point of dehumanization in the perpetrators' eyes; using that naked figure as a scapegoat for our own inadequacies and self-hatred.

The trial and mocking of Jesus have largely become sanitized to us, almost sterile when they are read, because we have distance of time and space, of culture and of familiarity. But that is why the liturgy of the passion is so crucial to us. It is through the stark symbolism of the wood of the cross, which we will behold in front of us later this afternoon, that we can understand the costly love and the naked surrender of the Man of Sorrows. And from the height of the cross, Jesus, as Luke records it, pronounces that general absolution for one and for all: 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing'. And in those words, the soldiers are forgiven, Pilate is forgiven, the High Priests are forgiven, the crowds are forgiven, the disciples who fled and deserted Jesus have been forgiven. We have been forgiven. From the lofty wood of the tree with outstretched arms, God forgives us, without exception, without condition and without limitation, temporally, spatially or psychologically.

So if we are in a place in our lives where we are afraid and are bearing some hatred or unresolved resentment in our hearts, then now let us open up to that Man of Sorrows. For in His sacred wounded heart is literally unending love, compassion, forgiveness and mercy. From His naked humiliation, we see the power of a no-blame attitude. We see the power of turning the other cheek and allowing those who perpetrate violence to make the evil fools out of themselves that they are. And yet, somehow, in the mysteriousness of the love of God, they are forgiven.

Good Friday Reflections - Nakedness
Part 3: Jesus on The Cross

by Fr Christopher Woods

Address 3 - Reading: John 19:23–27

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took His tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.' This was to fulfil what the scripture says, 'They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.' And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to His mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then He said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Now we gaze upon that solitary wind-cut and pierced isolated figure, high upon the wood beam, unable to breathe. Yet in His final moments He is still pouring forth love and mercy. Jesus recognized the naked suffering of His mother, losing her son, and the grief of His beloved disciple. Like so many dying people their worry and their pain is for those who are left behind. In the pain of a mother's grief at the unnatural and heartbreaking reality of losing a child, Mary stands beside us, sheltering us from the pain and fear of naked vulnerability. Mary has already seen and experienced the pain of grief, and so in our pain and suffering, whatever individual experience that may be for us, no matter how irrelevant we might perceive it to be, Mary is beside us. It is not irrelevant or trivial to her, nor is it to God.

The symbolism of the tearing of the garments of Jesus and the bartering over who would get the seamless tunic is never greater if we think about our own nakedness and vulnerability. By now we have cast off our own veneer, we have put away the layers of clothing which prevent us from loving whom we see each day in the mirror and which prevent us from being loved as we truly are, not as we might want others to see us. If we have done so, then the thought of someone else jeering over what we have cast off is so tortuous and embarrassing. We want a hole to swallow us up. We cannot possibly carry on in this life with pride and psychological barrier exposed and plainly visible. But it's too late. Our beautiful tunic has gone and we leave it behind. We avert our gaze from ourselves and our own worries towards the Cross - and we see in that figure the balm to our worried hearts, the answer to our deep-seated questions and the security to our most profound insecurities.

In our yearning for meaning and sense and some kind of reconciliation to the complexities of life, psychology, our mental stability, our awareness of ourselves and others, our highs and lows, we cannot help but be magnetically fixed on the Cross. And so our eyes must remain there for the moment, until God's mysterious process has been completed. We must be patient, live with the nakedness, live with freezing cold vulnerability, the discomfort, the pain, because the light is slowly beginning to pierce through, somewhere in the distance. We hang on in there, looking for something - surely Jesus cannot just die without something happening? Surely this is not the end ...

The 20th century Catholic theologian Henri de Lubac reflects on the fact that before our unity and our wholeness and our joy can be achieved, we must first allow our nakedness to be exposed. Our own light must first be dimmed by the shadow of the Cross:

'However genuine and unsullied the vision of unity that inspires and directs mankind's activity, to become effective it must first be dimmed. It must be enveloped in the great shadow of the Cross. [...] Through Christ dying on the Cross, the humanity which He bore whole and entire in His own Person renounces itself and dies. But the mystery is deeper still. He who bore all men in Himself was deserted by all. The universal Man died alone. This is the consummation of the Kenosis and the perfection of sacrifice. The desertion - even an abandonment by the mystery of solitude and the mystery of severance, the only efficacious sign of gathering together and of unity: the sacred blade piercing so deep as to separate soul from spirit, but only that universal life might enter. "O You who are solitary among the solitary, and all in all." "By the wood of the Cross", concludes St Irenaeus, "the work of the Word of God was made manifest to all: His hands are stretched out to gather all men together. Two hands outstretched, for there are two peoples scattered over the whole earth. One sole head in the midst, for there is but one God over all, among all and in all."'1

1 de Lubac, Henri (trans.), Catholicism: Christ and the Common destiny of Man, Ignatius Press (1950), pp367-369.

Good Friday in Seven Good Words

by Stuart Epperson, jr

The stage was set. The night was dark. The forces of evil, visible and invisible, viciously swarmed upon One Man. He is the only Man who with just one word could have instantly eradicated all His foes.

But He opened not his mouth. There was nothing but deafening silence from the One who only had to speak and the blind saw, the lame leapt, the leper was healed, and the dead were raised.

He quietly endured the shame of a jeering crowd, the interrogation, the trial, the questions, the scourging, the torture, the insults.

His silence remained unbroken all the way to the place of the Skull.

"And He, bearing His Cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha" (John 19:17). And then, Jesus opened His mouth:

Seven Words of Life He cried,
Seven Words with His last breath.
Seven Words as Jesus died,
Seven Words of Life from the Tree of Death.

A close look at Christ's seven final sayings from the cross clearly explains why there's so much "good" in "Good Friday."

First "A Word of Prayer:" Then said Jesus, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do..." (Luke 23:34).

Remarkably, the Savior's final seven sayings start with prayer. After all the torture, flogging, abuse and grueling ascent to Calvary—Christ prays. In history's darkest moment He finds himself in prayer's familiar light—a prayer of forgiveness. Have you received Christ's gift of forgiveness? Have you forgiven those who have wounded you?

Secondly, "A Word of Pardon:" "And Jesus said unto him, 'Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise'" (Luke 23:43).

Of all those present at the cross, to whom does the savior grant divine pardon—a despicable thief! While His broken body was suspended high, the thief's broken heart was bowed low before the Lord of Glory. His humble prayer, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom," was divinely answered. Do you see your need of divine pardon?

Thirdly, "A Word of Paternity:" "...He saith unto his mother, 'Woman, behold thy son!' Then saith he to the disciple, 'Behold thy mother!' " (John 19:26, 27).

Imagine the pain Mary endured, watching her son die a most brutal death. We see in Mary and John a picture of Christ's divine care for the widow and orphan. Social justice from the cross! Miraculously, while Jesus' physical body was being torn, His spiritual body was being formed. Are you expressing Christ's paternal care for those in need?

Fourthly, "A Word of Pain." "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

This cry of dereliction is accompanied by three hours of inexplicable night, in the middle of the day. God's wrath upon ALL evil and sin—aimed like an arrow at the heart of sinners, is now fully absorbed by the Friend of Sinners. The "Light of the World" hangs abandoned—enveloped in a world of darkness. Have you looked to one who can truly "feel your pain," in your darkest moment?

Fifthly, "A Word of Passion." "After this, Jesus...saith, 'I thirst'" (John 19:28). Here hanging on the brink of death we hear the source of 'Living Water' cry, 'I thirst.'"

How remarkable that the briefest cross saying was the only word uttered about His own discomfort. In the "passion of His thirst," the Man of Sorrows endured unspeakable agony on the Tree of Death. When's the last time you reflected on the extent of Christ's suffering for you?

Sixthly, "A Word of Perfection." "It is finished..."(John 19:30). Victory over sin and death is triumphantly proclaimed! Are you on the exhausting hamster wheel of human performance, or have you found lasting completion in His finished work?

Lastly, "A Word of Peace." "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit..." (Luke 23:46). Jesus died as He lived, depending upon His Father. The Prince of Peace now rests in peace so that restless sinners can experience the supernatural peace of God. And though he rests, he will RISE ON THE THIRD DAY!

So dark and barbaric was His death, but so glorious His resurrection. Such was the profound lesson I learned one Easter morning in Old Salem Square as a young boy warmly bundled in my parents embrace. Suddenly, at the crack of dawn, we heard the sound of a lone voice high above the crowd, "The Lord is Risen!" To which everyone exclaimed more loudly, "THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED!"

Good words on a Good Friday.



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