Good Friday 2016
It is hard to speak after we hear the Passion Gospel. hard to do anything but sit in agony and silence. What can one say, how can one bring anything to the Word which has already been spoken?
And yet one must say something, because generations of people before now have. People have said words which have actually caused more pain, more suffering, more sorrow. Words that have blamed all the Jews for the death of Jesus, and so this day became a day of terror for the people Jesus calls family. Words that have proclaimed that a Father demanded the blood of an innocent Son, and so God came to be seen as vengeful and a God of anger and wrath. Words that implied that only the death of Jesus mattered, and so his life could be ignored, and all his teaching about love and mercy and compassion and forgiveness could be forgotten.
The preacher must be careful on this day, but still, one must preach, with holy fear perhaps, but words must be said.
On this day the Roman soldiers went about their normal every day work of putting down any attempt to defy the rule of Rome, and they executed Jesus at the order of Pilate.
On this day the Temple priests and leaders chose to protect their own power and authority at the expense of a man who they knew was innocent of everything except for challenging their own misrule.
On this day the majority of the people of Jerusalem went about their normal work, so used to what was happening that they no longer thought about it.
On this day the Son of God was put to death on a cross. Jesus, God incarnate, choose to die rather than save himself, he chose to live fully aligned with the will of the Father. This death however, this crucifixion does not mean that God desired sacrifice of blood, but that man desired evil.
It is sometimes said that Jesus had to die, or God could not forgive, but our Scriptures themselves show us the error of this thinking – over and over again the Scriptures tell us that God is full of compassion and mercy. David sings that God does not demand blood but a broken and contrite heart. God never demanded the death of Jesus, he desired rather than men turn from their wickedness.
On this day, wickedness triumphed.
Does that seem hard – do we rebel against the idea that evil wins today, that darkness triumphs? We do well to resist it, for resisting evil is part of our baptismal call, and as followers of Jesus who know the whole story we want to skip ahead, skip over this day and get quickly to Easter.
But to ignore Good Friday is to ignore the reality of the world, a world where the powers of evil and darkness still rebel and are at work. To skip over this day leaves us unable to make sense out of our own reality, a place where terrorism happens routinely, and where our response to hatred is more often than not our own hatred. We see oppression, violence, people in positions of authority abusing their power, the rich exploiting the poor, we see tragedy, hunger, homelessness. We see discrimination, fear of people different from ourselves, distrust of strangers. All of this is shown for exactly what is really is – on this day we see the ways of the world to be the forces that rebel and oppose the will of God. On this day we see that the outcome of this rebellion is the crucifixion.
We are not at Easter yet. We must resist the temptation to skip over this day and move quickly on to the triumph of Love. For this day is the triumph of evil. And yet most of the people of Jerusalem that day were oblivious.
Are we oblivious?
Good Friday confronts us, challenges us, forces us to look at our own life. It refuses to let us off the hook by saying that it was all supposed to be and so we can think it all in the past. No Good Friday was then, it is now, and it will be until all are finally redeemed and God’s kingdom finally fully present.
On this day, how will we respond?
Will we sell Jesus in order to save ourselves – how often do we blame another person, or another group of people for our problems?
Will we simply go about our daily life and work and not even see Jesus crucified – how often do we ignore the pain and suffering of others thinking it is not our concern?
Will we challenge the unjust powers and authorities that condemn an innocent man – do we think ourselves powerless in our current political system or do we seek leaders who truly represent the common good?
On this day evil triumphed.
What will we do now?