“Easter”

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined(1) thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts(2) vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

(1) calcined. reduced to lime or other substance. (Oxford English Dictionary.) In this case reduced to our lowest commonest denominator, dust, of which we all are made.
(2) three parts. Most chords have only 3 different notes which are repeated, multiplied, at different octaves in different voices or instruments.

—George Herbert, from The Temple (1633)

(also set to music by Ralph Vaughan WIlliams as the first two of his Five Mystical Songs)

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It Is Finished

The Savior meant that the satisfaction which He rendered to the justice of God was finished. The debt was now, to the last farthing, all discharged. The atonement and propitiation were made once and for all and forever—by the one offering made in Jesus’ body on the Tree. There was the cup, Hell was in it, the Savior drank it—not a sip and then a pause—not a draught and then a ceasing. He drained it till there is not a dreg left for any of His people. The great ten-thronged whip of the Law was worn out upon His back. There is no lash left with which to smite one for whom Jesus died. The great cannonade of God’s justice has exhausted all its ammunition—there is nothing left to be hurled against a child of God.

Sheathed is your sword, O Justice! Silenced is your thunder, O Law! There remains nothing now of all the griefs and pains and agonies which chosen sinners ought to have suffered for their sins, for Christ has endured all for His own Beloved and “it is finished.”

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Humiliation and Exaltation

The cross proclaims both the humiliation of God through the act of taking on human flesh and the exaltation of God through the resurrection of the Incarnate and Crucified One. The mystery of humiliation-exaltation can be understood best only in reverse. In terms of Jesus: Without the Resurrection, Good Friday commemorates simply the death of a martyr, a noble but tragic figure; and Christmas is simply the birth of this same ill-fated teacher. The birth, ministry and death of Jesus must be understood in light of the resurrection or the understanding will be greatly diminished. It is no accident that the observance of Christian time, the day and the week and the year, is grounded in and organized around the resurrection celebration.

—Laurence Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 27-28

Good Friday

Tread softly around the cross, for Jesus is dead. Repeat the refrain in hushed and softened tones: the Lord of life is dead.

The infuriated mob that cried for His crucifixion gradually disperses; He is dead.

And the passersby who stop just to see Him go on their way; He is dead.

The Pharisees, rubbing their hands in self-congratulation, go back to the city; He is dead.

The centurion assigned the task of executing Him makes his official report to the Roman procurator, “He is dead.”

And Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus of the Sanhedrin go personally to Pontius Pilate and beg of the Roman governor His body, because He is dead.

Mary His mother and the women with her are bowed in sobs and in tears; He is dead.

And the eleven apostles, like frightened sheep, crawl into eleven shadows to hide, and they cry, “He is dead!”

Wherever His disciples meet, in an upper room, or on a lonely road, or behind closed doors, or in hiding places, the same refrain is sadly heard, “He is dead. He is in a tomb; they have sealed the grave and set a guard; He is dead.”

Simon Peter, the rock, is a rock no longer.

And James and John, the sons of thunder, are sons of thunder no longer.

And Simon the Zealot is a zealot no longer.

He is dead, and the hope of the world has perished with Him.

Then, then, then…

—W. A. Criswell

Our Mighty Substitute

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of His passion.

We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of His death, and see Him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy—the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of His sufferings, to purchase our redemption.

Was He flogged? It was done so that “by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Was He condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty.

Did He wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.

Washe stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness.

Was He mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed.

Was He reckoned a criminal, and counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin.

Was He declared unable to save himself? It was done so that He might be able to save others to the uttermost.

Did He die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

—J. C. Ryle, “The Sufferings of Christ” in Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross: Experiencing The Passion and Power of Easter

Why do we call this Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestants in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.”

This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 96