Reflection: Good Friday

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

The Reverend Mark Birch focuses on the distinction between the cross and the crucifix, and how we remember Jesus’ death as a perversion of justice. This reflection is inspired by Isaiah 53: 3-8.

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Crucifix Florence Nightingale

Isaiah 53: 3-8

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.


The cross is a timeless symbol, but the crucifix is a moment in time. It forces us to remember that this death was particular, as all deaths are. It happened to a particular man, in a particularly gruesome manner. Crucifixes evoke a connection; an emotional response; to bring us close to this dying man and all that he might mean.

Meaning doesn’t come out of nowhere. The first followers found it in the prophecy of Isaiah; in a servant figure who suffers for the sake of the people; carrying their sins, in order that they may be restored to God: ‘by his bruises we are healed.’

His death is a ‘perversion of justice.’ Instead of being punished for his own sins, he is ‘crushed for our iniquities.’ He is innocent, and shows us our injustice; the sin that constantly casts-out others for the sake of maintaining fictions about ourselves, our communities and nations. We imagine our victims to be guilty, but he shows us that, as scapegoats, they are innocent.

We need to keep coming back here, time and again, to be reminded of what we do, and to be reminded of the moment in time when we were forgiven.


O Loving wisdom of the living God,
O living Word and power of the Father everlasting:
grant what Thou hast promised,
and give us, unworthy though we are,
what we most earnestly desire;
that Thy passion may be our deliverance,
Thy death our life,
Thy Cross our redemption,
and Thy wounds our healing;
and that, being crucified with Thee,
Thy grace may lift us up on high to Thy Father;
with Whom Thou livest and reignest,
one God, world without end.