Good Friday 2015

mp3 Audio:  2015_04_10-Sdn_Jeremy-Good_Friday_2015.mp3

This sermon was preached by Subdeacon Jeremy Conrad on Good Friday, April 10, 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services

Gospel Reading: John 18:33-19:37

Looking at what we just read: A travesty, a crime was committed when they killed Jesus. They killed an innocent man. Looking at it from this side of the Cross, it’s easy to be thankful and rejoice in that, but there was a crime committed.

Think about all the people who were involved in this crime. We were, actually, last Sunday, part of the crowd that would process around with our palm branches, waving them and crying “Hosanna!” to the Son of David, and here, we’re the ones who are crucifying Him just a few days later. When we did the Stations of the Cross earlier today, and we look at Pilate and the Roman soldiers, the people who spit on Him, and mocked Him, and beat Him; the people who nailed Him to that Cross. You know, in all these pictures except for two or three, there is a common theme: Stations of the Cross.

Of all the players in this, I think I would have least likely wanted to be the Cross in this. Yet, I was reading the other day our hymn for matins that we have been singing for the last several days, and verses three and four in this matins hymn (are you singing this later?) are specifically speaking to the Cross.

Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigor
That thy birth bestowed, suspend [1]

It is saying, “you know normally, when you are normally a hard tree, hard wood, just for a little while relax that a little bit. Let your sinews bend.”

And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend!

Can’t you imagine the Cross just kind of leaning back? Holding the Creator?

Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ransom to uphold

Who else is going to get to hold Him up? The Cross is counted worth to hold our Savior.

That a shipwrecked race preparing harbor
Like the ark of old

Can you think of that? The ark that held up Noah, held up humanity – the ark is holding up the Savior of humanity. The Cross!

With the sacred blood anointed
Of the smitten Lamb that rolled

The Cross had the benefit of being anointed by the blood of Christ. Later on, we’ll hear a song (I think it might even be the same tune): Sweetest Wood and Sweetest Iron.

Today, at 3:00 in the afternoon, after having been on the Cross a relatively short period of time, Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the twelfth station. What happened after that? Yes, we know about the Resurrection, but what happened right now? He died at 3:00 today. What happened right now? What was he doing right now before the Resurrection? Where was he?

We quote the Nicene Creed every time we do a Mass, and often at home. There is a line in there that says, “Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, was crucified under Pontias Pilate, suffered. . .” He suffered. He truly did suffer, and He was buried. He did this for real. These things really happened. God became flesh. He came down from heaven. He truly was crucified on that Cross. The real man, Jesus, was crucified. The real man truly suffered on the Cross, and He truly was buried.

The Church and the Bible, especially John, talks a lot about specific things like this. Jesus was speared in the side, and blood and water poured out of Him foreshadowing or showing the Eucharist, the blood and water that we use. Out of the side of the Second Adam, the new Eve was born: The Church comes to life.

Why was he speared though? It was common practice that, when they put a person on the Cross, if they weren’t dying quick enough, they would break their legs. It was their legs that would hold them up to be able to catch that breath again before they were let down again. It was exhausting work. The word “excruciating” actually comes from ex crux, “from the Cross.” That’s where we get the word.

Jesus’s legs were not to be broken, according to prophesy. Why were they not broken? Because he was dead. Jesus, the man, our God, died on that Cross. He was wrapped in grave clothes. He was laid in the sepulcher. He was anointed by Joseph of Arimathea and by Nicodemus. Women came to anoint His dead corpse.

He was dead. I think this is an important point to drive home, because some people have said in the past that He just seemed to die or He appeared to die. You wouldn’t not break His legs; you wouldn’t stab Him in the side; you wouldn’t wrap Him in grave clothes and put Him in a tomb and anoint His body if He wasn’t dead! Jesus died.

His body was in the sepulcher, but where was His soul? Where was Jesus? Where was the Soul of God? It’s hard to even say it. This is really important. We say in the Creed, He descended. Sometimes people say, “descended into hell.” Sometimes people say, “descended into Hades.”

A lot of times the Holy Fathers make it clear that heaven is not an actual place; it’s more of an existence, a way of being. The word sheol is the Hebrew word, and the word hades is the Greek word for the same thing, but it is basically the condition of being dead. Jesus descended to the position of being dead. That’s what that means. It’s another way of saying He really did become a corpse.

It is also dogma that, according to the Hebrew reckoning of time – the way they used to count time, that by the third day in the grave His body didn’t see corruption. He didn’t decay. Without modern embalming or even ancient Egyptian embalming, bodies decay beginning immediately upon death. You start to see the color change. Blood starts to pool. Smells start to emanate. Things start to happen. The eyes might sink in. The cheeks start to sink in. Immediately upon death that starts to happen!

It didn’t happen to Jesus. He did not see decay. He couldn’t see corruption. He could not remain dead. He is the Life, the Resurrection and the Life. He could not remain dead. He has the power of God. Father Joseph [Gleason] mentioned earlier today that every moment of this thing was under His control. Every event that He did, that He went through was voluntary. When He died, it was voluntary. When He entered that condition of being dead, it was also voluntary. He was numbered among the transgressors. He was numbered among the dead. He really did it. Do you get it?

When Jesus entered that condition, there were other righteous dead in that condition with Him. Abraham was with Him. Moses, David, John the Forerunner, all these righteous people. . . I think it was a year or two ago when Father Michael [Keiser] was talking about this. He said that this place of sheol or hades is very cloudy or very dark. He said the food isn’t very good. He said it’s kind of like Cleveland. Remember him saying that?

It’s not a great place in which to be. Yet, those righteous people are said to be in the hands of God. They have a type of consciousness, a hope of liberation. They’re not suffering. They’re looking forward. They are looking toward when the Messiah is to come and to being raised to glory.

There are also unrighteous people in that same state of being. They were there too. They were being tormented by their own evil, by their own lack of faith, and by their own refusal to follow God. They are in the hands of the evil one instead of the hands of God. When the Messiah comes down there, they will be raised, not for glory, but for judgement and condemnation, and they know it. Both groups of people in Hades are anticipating the Messiah – some with joyful anticipation, and others with dread.

At the moment of Jesus’s separation, when His body dies and His soul enters that state, BOOM! Jesus enters into hell! Light enters into darkness. There has never been so much light in that area ever, and now there is light. There had never been so much life in that area where there was always death, and now there is life. Jesus Christ’s death goes down there and shatters eternal death completely.

We say the words, “He trampled down death by His death.” He tramples with his feet, stomps on death with His death. Jesus was not tormented when He was in this condition. He was liberating the righteous. He did not suffer separation from God, from Himself. God was always with Him.

When Jesus commended His spirit to God, He never went to torment. He never went to fire or torture. God in the flesh, dies in the flesh, experiences death and burial in the flesh but does not decay. He goes to Hades, not as a victim, but as the Victor. Jesus went there and preached to the spirits imprisoned and said, “I am the One. I am the Messiah. I AM.”

The gates of hell shuttered, and death lost its power. Jesus went in there and bound that strong man, bound Satan, raided his house, liberated all of his captives. That’s what’s going on right now. Right under your feet, the earth is kind of shaking. Do you feel it yet?


[1] Words: Pange lingua gloriosi praelium certaminis, Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus (ca. 535-600), 569; trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851, with some alterations in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1868

This sermon was preached by Subdeacon Jeremy Conrad on Good Friday, April 10, 2015 at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services provides full service secretarial support (including transcription and publishing services) to Orthodox clergy and parish communities.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in Good Friday, Holy Week, Subdeacon Jeremy Conrad. Bookmark the permalink.

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