Sermon–Good Friday–April 14, 2017


Good Friday–April 14, 2017

William Bradbury

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42, Psalm 22

The church, under the guidance of the Spirit, always proclaims on Good Friday the Passion of Jesus from John’s Gospel. On Palm Sunday we always read a passion account from Matthew, Mark, or Luke (last Sunday we performed Matthew’s passion), because in many ways these portray the passion of the Son of Man,  But on Good Friday the Church wants us to see the death of Jesus, as the Passion of the Son of God.

Jesus is both—he is Son of earth and Son of heaven, he is Son of Man and Son of God, so we need all accounts—each has its power and its purpose. But on this day, we need to see the inner story, the story from Jesus’ perspective as the Eternal Word through whom creation is made and sustained. So we must remember what is read from the beginning of John’s Gospel at Christmas:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 ….And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”

The passion we’ve just performed is the passion of the Word made flesh, who reveals God, because he is God. But even though we’ve just read it aloud to each other we still have trouble quieting the tapes of the Gospels.

So in order to hear John’s Passion story we need to notice some differences from the others:

  1. In John’s Passion there is no agony in the garden. No throwing himself onto the ground with sweat like blood pouring off him while the disciples sleep.

Not at all: when the soldiers arrive to arrest him, Jesus comes forward and presents himself to them, unafraid and confident. “Who are you looking for? They say, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  “I am He.”

They fall to the ground, but he stands tall. This happens twice so we don’t miss the point.

Yet, we do notice Peter is the same—he’s afraid and strikes out with a weapon.

  1. In john’s account there is no prayer that this cup be removed from him.

Not at all: Jesus, the Word made Flesh, says, “Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” Jesus has already said that he and the father are one, and at the Last Supper he says “if you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Of course Jesus is ready to drink the cup because that is why he has come into the world—to save the world that Triune God loves.

Yet, we notice Pilate is the same scared bureaucratic bully who says, “What is truth?”, when the man before him is Truth in the flesh.

  1. After his trial there is no need to have Simon of Cyrene carry the cross to Golgotha.

Not at all: Jesus carries it himself without falling even once. It almost looks like Jesus puts himself on the cross when he arrives.

  1. And maybe hardest of all, we need to see that there is no cry of dereliction from the cross: there is no “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

Not at all: Jesus has work to do which he does with the Father and the Spirit right by his side.

There is that touching scene only in John’s story, where Jesus gives the disciple whom he loves and his mother to each other. Jesus is creating a new community, not based on any characteristic but the love of Triune God. Mary, the Mother of God, is the symbol of the Universal Church who is mother not just to those who belong to her tribe or race or skin color or sexuality, because Jesus gives her a son who is not her own. And now John has a new mother, the universal mother who holds all people together in Christ. As Paul puts it, “Your life is hid with Christ in God.”

Then, in order to fulfill scripture Jesus says, “I thirst”. And when they offer him sour wine he drinks it, which he doesn’t do in the other accounts. Then Jesus says, “It is finished!” The work of salvation he came from the Father to create is now complete and whole—it is done!

And in case we’ve missed the point, gives us another way to see the great work Jesus has finished. After he has died, a soldier pierces his side with a spear and out comes at once blood and water.

Our enlightenment mind instantly goes to modern medicine which tells us that the spear may have penetrated the sack around the heart which after such a violent death contains blood and water. That may be true, but John wants us to go deeper—much deeper—to see the obvious which we don’t see because for 2000 years it has been mostly men who have been allowed to preach on this day. Most women know, however, that what is being described is the process of birth.

We must remember the first chapter again:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life!”

What we are witnessing is out of the death of Jesus pours forth the birth of the New Creation! This is why Jesus appears so stoic!  Of course he’s human and like a new mother who never forgets the pain of giving birth, yet does not focus on the pain while she holds her baby, so to Jesus is consumed with love for all his children. 

Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 that in order to see or enter the Kingdom of God we must be born from above. Well, here is the new birth that pours out not just on those standing around the cross 2000 years ago, but also here and now it pours out ONTO THE WHOLE COSMOS…which includes everyone, even you and me.   

Alexander Shaia is right to call John’s Passion an Easter Passion! The church is right to call this day GOOD Friday. We stand under this fountain of New Creation every time the Gospel is read and all we have to do is say “Yes and Thanks” and to live into our new identity in Christ.” We may be silent and solemn on this day, but we also should be jubilant– FOR THIS IS NOT A DEATH STORY BUT A BIRTH STORY—the story of our birth as the forgiven Daughters and Sons of God.