Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Dear brothers and sisters,
“Who would believe what we have heard” (Isaiah 53:1)? We might say that in some way this Friday which we call Good is about the voice of Jesus the Christ. Indeed, when the Lord Jesus identified himself to those who confronted him weapons and torches, “they turned away and fell to the ground” (John 18:6).
Reflecting on this powerful aspect of the Lord’s sorrowful Passion, Saint Augustine reminds us that
With no other weapon than his own solitary voice uttering the words ‘I am,’ he knocked down, repelled and rendered helpless that great crowd, even with all the ferocious hatred and terror of arms… And now even at the present time Christ is still saying through the Gospel, ‘I am.’ And … the result is the same, as people go backward and fall to the ground because they have abandoned what is heavenly in favor of what is earthly.
Those soldiers and officers fell back because “God lay hid in that human flesh…” They heard the voice of God and learned that “the voice of the Lord is powerful,” that “the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:4). So it was that they fell back in fear before him in fear.
We might also say that they fell back, they drew back, they retreated, because they did not want to conform themselves to “the Word made flesh,” to the one who is himself the truth (cf. John 1:14; cf. John 14:6). The Lord Jesus repeatedly spoke the truth to them and invited them to enter into the embrace of his love time and again, but they would not allow their hearts to be changed; they refused to repent and believe in the Gospel and so backed away from them (cf. Mark 1:15).
Because he desired them to open their ears to his words, he spoke “openly to the world” and often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (John 18:20; Matthew 11:15). They would not hear, but he did not stop speaking to them; rather, he continually offered the gift of his merciful love to them in order that they might allow his words to take root in their hearts. This is why the Lord Jesus commanded Peter to “put your sword back into its scabbard” (John 18:11). Not only was Peter’s act of defense contrary to the will of the Father, it also removed an opportunity for the slave of the high priest to hear anew the Word made flesh.
When the Lord restored Malchus to health by giving him back his ear, he signified “the renewed hearing that has been pruned of its oldness, that it may henceforth be in the newness of the spirit…” What oldness needs to be pruned from us that our hearing might be renewed? Will we allow the strength of the Lord’s words to prune us, or will we, with the soldiers and the officers, draw back from him and refuse to hear the truth? Will we allow the solitary weapon of his voice to pierce our hearts? Let us this day not fall back from the voice of Christ Jesus to return to what is earthly, but let us instead fall down before the Cross of our Lord in humble love and ask him to strengthen our desire for the things of heaven. Let us, hearing his voice of power, of truth, and of love, believe. Amen.