2018-03-30/Good Friday/Community Lutheran/Rev. Joseph Vought
John 18:1 – 19:42
We have traveled with Jesus from Palm Sunday. Now in the retelling of the Passion of our Lord, we trace the journey of Jesus in the Great Three Days- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
In the Palm Sunday reading of the Passion according to St. Mark, we marveled at Jesus’ triumphal entry with palms and “Hosannas!” and yet we wondered at his countenance, meek and gentle, riding not a war-horse but a donkey. At Bethany, in the company of friends, Jesus enjoyed hospitality and when fragrant perfume is poured over him, we learn it is anointing before his burial. Celebrating Passover in an upper room, Jesus tells his disciples one of them will betray him and speaks new strange words over the Passover bread and cup, “Take this is my body, Drink, this is my blood.”
Now as we pick up the narrative on Good Friday, how different is the Passion of our Lord according to St. John. For if Mark’s Passion introduced drama, tension and Jesus, at the mercy of events, notice in John’s Passion it is the kingship of Jesus that shines through his humiliation. All the way through, Jesus is in command of the situation. He is fully conscious of his pathway and destiny.
In Gethsemene, our Lord sets his passion in motion by voluntarily coming forward for his arrest. “Then Jesus, knowing all that was about to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” When Jesus responds, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, the soldiers stepped back and fell to the ground.” Peter would stop the arrest, but Jesus intervenes and moves the Passion forward.
Even as Jesus is brought before authorities and put on trial, we realize that it is Caiaphas and Pilate and maybe even we ourselves who are on trial. Christ the King pronounces judgment on the world’s wisdom and all the kingdoms we would build, “I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
And then, most beautifully, it is on the cross that the Crucified One makes his last will and testament: “He said to his mother, Woman here is your son. Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” Could it be that we are no longer bound by kinship ties, race, clan or maybe even creed? But that we are always being called to gather in Godly love by the outstretched arms of Jesus to each and every other person who finds themselves betrayed, lost, forsaken. suffering or at the foot of the cross. At the end of His Life, in all the suffering moments of our own and when we are brought to the end of our lives, we are all, in the embrace of Jesus who said, “And I when I am lifted up will draw the whole world to myself.”
Finally, it is Jesus who decides on the moment of his death, “it is finished.” He announces the completion of his sacrifice,
Let us be honest tonight, Good Friday will never bring overflow crowds to worship. And there is so much in us that would like to run right to Easter morning. But our Lord Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and was buried, leads all of us where we do not want to go, to the places where we all must learn to let go, to give up all our claims to power or control. To be people of faith and trust is to believe and remember that the one who created and made us from the dust of the earth, can raise us up in our dying to new life
And it is in Christ’s Passion for us, His suffering and death, that we are called again to our true vocation, the Paschal Mystery of our dying and rising, to learn what it means to live by dying, to give our lives away. As St. Francis taught us to pray, “it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to new life.”
Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit…” “We praise you O Christ and we bless, by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” Amen.