30 Aug Holy Week – Good Friday, April 2nd, 2021
Holy Gospel: John 18:1-19:42
O Lord Jesus, as we face the cross today, we wonder at your love for us. We can never earn or deserve what you did for us on this day. Looking at the people who brought about your death, we can see so many of the same faults in ourselves and we are sorry for them. By faith, we gladly take the forgiveness you offer from your cross and through the door you pushed open there, we come back into God’s Family, where we really belong
What is “good” about “Good Friday?” The German name for today, “Karfreitag” is translated as “Sorrow-“ or “Mourning-” Friday and, considering that this day is used to remember and recall Jesus’ brutal execution on the cross at Calvary, sorrow or mourning does sound more appropriate so, what is “good” about “Good Friday?”
For one thing, Good Friday is the day Christians commemorate and recall the fact that Jesus’ death upon the cross has opened the way to Gods’ saving grace for all of humanity, even those who had Jesus put to death. In Luke’s Gospel account of the passion of Christ, one of Jesus’ last pleas was “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” So, even to his ignoble death on the cross, Jesus was pleading for forgiveness of God on the behalf of humanity. By pouring out his life on the cross for us and for all humanity, Jesus acted as our intermediary, our Intercessor , our bridge to the forgiveness of God. And that, my brothers and sisters, is good.
Good Friday is also the day on which our Lord began to hammer away at the doors of death in order to open the gates of life. Life within him and eternal life with God. In the three days space between Jesus’ crucifixion and his glorious Resurrection, Jesus defeated the power of death and darkness. Jesus opened the door of eternal life to all of humanity. Earlier in John’s Gospel in Chap 3 v 16 we hear those famous words “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is only made possible by the events of “Good” Friday because Jesus opened the doors for us from within. He gave himself up to death as was the will of God. He transitioned from human life into the realm of death in order to open the dread dark portals of death from INSIDE for us and for our salvation. Because of Good Friday, we are no longer condemned to darkness and death after our mortal bodies have left this physical plane of existence. Instead, because Jesus has gone before us and opened the door to eternal life, we are welcomed with open arms as beloved children into communion and eternal life with God. And that, my brothers and sisters, is good.
Today is a day where one of humanity’s primal fears, the fear of death, is realized, reinforced in excruciating detail as our Lord is nailed to and lifted up on the cross. Christ suffered death at the hands of sinners, sinners just like us. We, in the 21st Century, like to think we are somehow more advanced, more forgiving, more “sophisticated” that “that rabble mob” that was shouting “CRUCIFY HIM” at Gabbatha but are we really? When we look on the events transpiring around the world today, the hatred, the violence, the persecution, the degradation, the disparity between the have’s and the have-nots, the greed, the self-centred arrogance, we see the ugliness of sin still pervading our world, we are conscripted witnesses to the similarities between our world today and the world on that first Good Friday, we experience the similarities between us and the mob at Gabbatha shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!”.
Today, Good Friday, is however, also the day when that primal fear of death, at least for Christians, has the edge taken off because our Lord has gone before us, has traversed the dark road of death and the grave and has risen victorious. Jesus’ coming victory over death and our belief in that victory also gives us the faith, hope, and perseverance to change the world around us. Faith in the resurrection, faith in God’s Grace and God’s forgiveness gives us the power to live out grace and forgiveness in our own lives and in the world around us. It gives us the strength to counter hate with love, violence with peace, injustice with justice, greed with compassion and caring. Through the grace of our Lord, we see the sin but we recognize it for what it is and we repent for our part in it.
Christians choose the path of Love, of Christ and no longer blindly, unknowingly follow the leaders of the mob. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Not only have those who believe been granted God’s grace and forgiveness but through that same grace and forgiveness, we are given the tools to live out that grace in our own lives. Christians are given the strength to forgive those who have wronged us as we in turn have been forgiven by God.
The events that we remember today are therefore NOT the “end” of the story. They may be the end of Jesus life as a human on this ball of rock floating through the vast expanse of space but they are NOT the end of his story, they are NOT the end of his message, they are NOT the end of God’s reign of love and grace and forgiveness…. And THAT, my brothers and sisters is truly GOOD.
Holy Gospel: John 18:1-19:42
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First, they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfil what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.