Good Friday Meditations
Two meditations on the cross
Isaiah 53:1-5 (KJV)
Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Note: The first meditation is written as if Christ is speaking. Its first known use was by Lactantius in an Easter service during the Diocletian persecution. Some scholars claim it is the work of a desert monk, others a 2nd century prophetic voice, most retain Lactantius as the author. Debates over its authorship pales in comparison to its power and ability to transport the reader to the foot of the cross and reflection on Christ’ substitutionary work.
“Does it please you to go through all of My pain and to experience grief with Me?
Then consider the plots against Me and the irreverent price of My innocent blood. Consider the disciple’s pretended kisses, the crowd’s insults and abuse, and, even more, the mocking blows and accusing tongues.
Imagine the false witness, Pilate’s cursed judgment, the immense cross pressed on My shoulders and tired back, and My painful steps to a dreadful death.
Study Me from head to foot. I am deserted and lifted high up above My beloved mother. See My hair clotted with blood, and My head encircled with cruel thorns. For a stream of blood is pouring down like rain on all sides of My Divine face. Observe My sunken, sightless eyes and My beaten cheeks. See My parched tongue that was poisoned with gall. My face is pale with death.
Look at My hands that have been pierced with nails and My drawn-out arms. See the great wound in My side and the blood streaming from it. Imagine My pierced feet and blood-stained limbs. Then bow, and with weeping adore the wood of the cross. With a humble face, stoop to the earth that is wet with innocent blood. Sprinkle it with tears, and carry Me and My encouragement in your devoted heart.” 
Note: The second meditation is by St. Ambrose, a church father who is very well known. St. Ambrose writes on the mystery of the cross and how the cross changes everything. He reminds us that because of the cross, we are servants of the Lord and no longer slaves to the sin.
“Oh the divine mystery of that cross! Weakness hangs on it, power is freed by it, evil is nailed to it, and triumphal trophies are raised toward it.
One saint said: “Pierce my flesh with nails for fear of Thee.” He doesn’t mean nails of iron, but of fear and faith. For the chains of righteousness are stronger than those of punishment. Peter’s faith bound him when he followed the Lord as far as the high priest’s hall. No person had bound him and punishment didn’t free him since his faith bound him. Again, when Peter was bound by the Jews, prayer freed him. Punishment didn’t hold him because he hadn’t turned from Christ.
Do you also crucify sin so that you can die to sin? Those who die to sin live to God. Do you live for Him who didn’t even spare His own Son so that He could crucify our sins in His body? For Christ died for us that we could live in His revived body. Therefore, our guilt and not our life died in Him who, it is said, “bare our sins in His own body on the tree; that being set free from our sins we might live in righteousness, by the wound of whose stripes we are healed.” 
(1) Lactantius, Poem on the passion of the Lord
(2) Ambrose, Of the Holy Spirit 1.9
Bio – Lactantius
Lactantius (c. 240-. 320). Lactantius’s writings have such a style and grace about them that he has been called the Christian Cicero. Lactantius lived thought intense persecution. He converted to Christianity, just before the publication of Diocletian’s first “Edict against the Christians”, which began the Diocletian persecution. He subsequently lived in poverty according to Saint Jerome and eked out a living by writing until Constantine ended the persecution of Christians. Late in life was hired by Emperor Constantine to teach his son Crispus. Lactantius’s writings defend the Christian faith and refute prevailing heresies.
Bio – Ambrose
Ambrose (c. 339-397). Ambrose was the first Latin church father born into a Christian family. He devoted himself to studying the law and was rewarded by being appointed governor of the northern section of Italy in 370. Four years later, the people of Milan appointed him as bishop of their city. Ambrose faced down emperors while teaching the truths of Jesus on a weekly basis to the people. He did much to advance congregational singing, and composed an influential book on Christian ethics. Most notably Ambrose was instrumental in discipling a young Augustine. Without Ambrose we would not have Augustine.
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