As Jesus moves through the countryside, into the village and town, he comes across people who have illness: people who cannot walk, people who cannot see, people who cannot talk. People suffering from chronic illness like leprosy, people who are tortured by disturbances of the mind, women who have long illness, people reduced to begging because of their disabilities. He comes across people too who are looking after the sick and who are demented by worry, a father who has a sick child, a soldier who has a servant who is ill, sisters who have a brother who is mortally ill.
It seems to us like a sea of illness but he always has infinite patience. They come in large numbers. Their needs are so many, so great and he never turns them away. He breaks customs and traditions too, talks with them even when he is not supposed , touches them even when he shouldn’t, goes out to meet them when he should stay away from them, refuses to treat them as sinners as he is told he should, includes them rather than excludes them.
It is at the heart of Christ’s saving mission: he comes as Isaiah said the Messiah would come that lame should walk that the blind will see, and that those in prison might be set free.
But today there is something even more wonderful things of all this that he has done. Now he takes on all of that suffering in the mystery of the cross.
He who has known and seen suffering with his own eyes, becomes as Isaiah says in the reading himself the suffering one himself. He who knew mistreatment of others is now mistreated himself and becomes an outcast. He who seen the ugliness of people’s actions himself is set upon by others who wish to do him harm, he knows the terror of the mob. He himself is cruelly hit, cut and bruised. He is whipped with a lash to the very edge of his life. He is crowned with thorns and forced to wear a purple clock. He who has seen people reviled is reviled himself, he is presented to the crowd as a fraud, who has come to steal power, a kingly crown. He is run through by nails and a spear and he dies on the cross in utter ignominy and in what seems the most pointless suffering and death.
If his whole ministry has been coming to the sick and broken, now he is the most sick and broken of all men, now he is the suffering servant.
On Good Friday we see what seems to be the lowest point of Christ’s life on earth and yet it is the greatest. All through his ministry he sees sickness and brokenness and misery and mends and heals it.
Now he cannot do anything – the people say to him you healed everyone come down from the cross now and save yourself if you are the Christ. He is cut and he bleeds, he is hit and is bruised, he is crushed by the weight of this terrible cross, he is pushed and falls to his knees. These are real human sufferings and as terrifying as is possible to take on.
He takes on all these sufferings in his cross, all the sufferings of mankind, all the brokenness of the world, all the uncertainties of what it means to be a human being, he identifies with human brokenness on the cross. The sufferings of human beings especially of those who suffer most, those who are most lost, those who are most broken, those who are most afraid.
Is God really silent before the woes of the world. Before the fact of children dying in chemical attacks. Before world powers testing out their biggest and most deadly bombs. Before the carnage of war.
God is not silent. This is his answer. The man of sorrows who stands before us.
Jesus is not content to identify with the sick, be in their company, talk to them. He becomes the broken one, the pierced one, the tortured one, the mistreated one, the reviled one, the crucified one.
God is not silent before the miseries of the world. This is his answer.
It is the very heart of the mystery of how God comes on earth. St Paul says he takes the place of slave and being born as all men are he became humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross. He shows himself so humble. He shares fully a human life: born as a child with o no home, pursued at his birth by those who wished to do him harm, forced to live as an exile, lived a humble life, associated with poor and the sick and the outcasts and died a cruel death. It’s the very mystery of it all that he comes to share, really share human life and to redeem it and lift it up.
On Good Friday, this Good Friday, we come to venerate the Lord Jesus in his passion in death. His name is above all names. His cross is everything to us, his sufferings are everything to us, his life giving death means everything to us.
This is the sign he gives to us. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son for us so that we may have life.