Tonight we will gather in the bare church, with the starkness of the cross, veiled in black. Alone. Dark.
And we will talk of the sacrifice of God. Jesus died on the cross for my sins.
Why would God enter our world, be a human, and then allow us to kill him? It really sounds barbaric to many ears today.
Why the need to walk through the crucifixion on Good Friday? Why do we revisit the sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday during communion? Why not excise all this talk of blood and sacrifice?
Our ancestors sacrificed animals and humans to appease a god. There is actually no known human culture in which sacrifices were not made. Historians used to think the Mayans were a non-sacrificing people. That is, until massive temples of human sacrifice, and caves full of thousands of the human bones of victims were discovered. And when Mayan hieroglyphics were finally translated, we found that they speak largely of human sacrifice.
The Mayans are us, humans. Sacrifice is a deep part of our fallen human nature. Every human being deeply senses that he must appease the god. Sacrificing to appease the god is as old as human history. It is who we are, it is what we do.
In today’s world, we may have turned away from the “bloody sacrifices” of our ancestors (although some would say our modern warfare indicates we haven’t). Our addictions prove we still offer our bodies up to the god. But even when we don’t kill our physical bodies, we offer our souls, our children, our careers, our sexuality – anything – to stop the sounds of shame, guilt, and fear, or to satisfy the ruthless demands of pride. Anything to stop it! Appease the god!
The Cross of Christ still teaches us that we don’t need to sacrifice our children, our enemies, or ourselves as our pagan ancestors did. It teaches us that God does not demand appeasement. “I do not desire sacrifice or delight in the blood of bulls and goats.” He came to us, as God in the flesh, to allow us to sacrifice him to himself. There is nothing left to offer, no greater sacrifice left to give! We are still human beings, and we still need that message, that Good News.
Christians who know the Gospel, and who believe in God’s unmerited grace, we are tempted to sacrifice ourselves to earn his favor or trust. Go to church on Sunday, live a holy life, stop being a grouch, etc. All good things, but they are so easily turned into sacrifices to appease the god. St Paul says that ultimately we believe we are sacrificing to God, but in reality we are sacrificing to the demonic. God does not require our sacrifices, because he has already given us the ultimate, final sacrifice.
So on Good Friday, we once again represent Christ crucified. We cannot remove the language of sacrifice from Good Friday, Eucharist, or our faith. We love people too much for that. The Gospel of Christ crucified calls to the deepest need of all humans to rest in God, to know that he had done it, and we look to him and are saved.
It. Is. Finished.
Greg is the founder of Anglican Compass (previously known as Anglican Pastor). He is an Anglican Priest of the Anglican Church in North America. He served in a non-denominational church before being called into the Anglican church in 2003. He has served as an Associate Pastor, Parish Administrator, and Rector. He currently serves as the Canon to the Ordinary for the Anglican Diocese of the South.