It seems odd to say, but Holy Week is a time of judgment. As Jesus dies upon the cross, God is unfolding His judgment on the world. When we think of judgment, we might want to start cringing and wait for a lightning bolt from heaven, but the cross reveals a different kind of judgment! John 3:16 summarizes God’s judgment well: “For God so loved the world that He gave His son … [He] did not send his son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). The judgment that God makes today is one of love by which He deems us worth fighting for.
The analogy that comes to mind when I think of the judgment of the cross is like the judgment a person must make after surviving a severe storm or tornado. The storm passes and the homeowner comes out to survey the damage done to his house. He looks and takes everything in. He sees the tree through the bedroom wall, the roof half torn off, and the house half-demolished. In that moment, the owner must make a choice – should he tear down and start over? Or, should he save the house and do all the hard work of fixing the holes, replacing the roof, and so on? After all, this is the home where he has raised his family and that he has poured his life into. Will he take on the cost of saving and restoring what is left? Such is the judgment God makes today as He surveys us and our world. He created us out of love that He might dwell with us and He sees us broken and torn asunder by sin and death – the consequences that we brought upon our own heads. God knows that we can never fix ourselves, only He our creator, can do so. Instead of abandoning us and starting over, which undoubtedly would be a lot easier and less-costly, the cross shows us what God has chosen. He knows full well the cost and the cross reveals He will take our sins upon Himself and heal us.
We can see the Lord making that decision to take on the cost of saving us even hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. Isaiah prophesies powerfully, “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured … he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sin; upon him was laid the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” To save and heal us, Jesus literally took on our brokenness that He might save us from the inside out. The Lord remembers the original innocence and holiness in which He created us and He fully intends to save what He created. Isaiah continues, “He surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses.” That is judgment that God makes on the world, a judgment of love through which He takes on our sinfulness and brokenness to win our pardon and restoration.
As we come forward on Good Friday to reverence the cross, may we realize that we are seeing God’s judgment unveiled before our eyes. The Father is holding out His son to us and asking, “Do you not see and believe how much I love you?” Such is our God who simply asks that we love Him in return. As we come forward, let us tell Jesus of our love, for “upon Him was laid the chastisement that makes us whole.”
Fr. Gary Koenigsknecht is a priest of the Diocese of Lansing and serves as Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Parish in Grand Blanc. He has attended a TOB 1: a Head & Heart Immersion Course, as well as TOB & Priestly Prayer.