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Where do we stand with Jesus’ crucifixion?

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Good Friday – April 14, 2017

Luke 23:32-47 and Psalm 31:5-13

Where do we stand with Jesus’ crucifixion? On Good Friday, we are called for a little while to pretend that Easter hasn’t happened.

We stand with the silent crowds, who watched helplessly, while Luke says:

“They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.’ They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.”

They led. They arrived. They crucified him. They drew lots to divide his clothing. They don’t know what they’re doing. Luke never tells us who they are, which suggests there was plenty of blame to go around. That is, if we were the kind of people who blamed, instead of doing what Jesus called for and forgiving them. It’s quite the question: “Where DO we stand with Jesus’ crucifixion?”

On Good Friday, we are called for a little while to stand with the silent crowds, who overheard their leaders, the soldiers, and even one of the other condemned men mock Jesus. Telling him to save himself, if He really is who He says He is. We have to pretend for a little while that we don’t know the reason He won’t save Himself is because He’s saving us; and He’s even saving them. They don’t know it. And for a little while, we have to act like we don’t know it, either.

On Good Friday, we are called to stand with the people through three hours of darkness in the middle of the afternoon. And pretend that it’s a sign that our very world is falling apart. Instead of the creation reassuring us by those three hours of darkness that Jesus will only be in the grave for three days.

To listen for the cries of horror coming from the temple. We must let those dark thoughts twist their way through our hearts. Instead of seeing God tearing through the heavens to run and embrace God’s Son, who with God’s dying breath cries out: “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.”

On Good Friday, we must pretend, only for a little while, that Easter hasn’t happened. So that when we overhear the Roman centurion finally admit: “It’s really true: this man was righteous”, our hearts fill with fiery anger. An anger that makes us want to grab that centurion, even spit in his face, and tell him: You just confessed to taking part in the murder of a good and innocent man! An anger that is only kept back by our helpless recognition that if we did grab the centurion out of anger, in fact, if we did act out like that, what happened to Jesus might also happen to us.

On Good Friday, we pretend for a little while that Easter hasn’t happened. Because those who saw, heard, and felt the events of what we now call “Good Friday,” saw, heard, and felt no Good News that day.

The Good News of Good Friday can only be known in hindsight. After we have followed Jesus into rejection, shame, suffering, and death. Through the silent, chilling defeat of the grave. And on to the stunning victory of Resurrection. And only after all that does anyone see, hear, or feel any Good News in this mess.

But now, dear friends, we look for the Good News of Good Friday.

The Good News of Good Friday is this: As we watch and listen to Luke’s story of Jesus’ death, we may think we are following him into rejection, shame, suffering, death, and the godforsaken silence of the grave. But what we really find is that Jesus followed us—all of us, all humanity—into those places. And went on ahead of us, to make a way out. And from that point on, his footprints shine in our darkness, leading us through it and out of it.

The cold, hard, unyielding truth of this life is that all of us dwell in the darkness of the world; a darkness revealed and made plain by the events of Good Friday. Inside that darkness, dwelling among us and within us, are:

Fear.

Ignorance.

Prejudice.

Betrayal.

Dishonesty.

Corruption.

Cynicism.

Bullying.

Injustice.

Cruelty.

Shame.

Loss.

Helplessness.

Hopelessness.

Terror.

Violence.

Death.

We will all know our own Good Fridays, those hopeless days when the darkness seems to be winning. And we will suffer the humiliating defeat of death and the grave.

But the Good News of Good Friday is we are never in the darkness alone. Jesus walked through it, and walks with us through it, and even carries us through it when we can’t walk on our own.

Because of Good Friday, in the darkness of this present age, we feel Jesus’ nail-pierced hands grasp our hands; and his feet walk beside our feet. And the same voice that told someone suffering beside him in the darkness: “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.” That voice says to us: Child, I know. They did it to me, too. 1)

Perhaps we don’t really want to know where we would have stood with Jesus’ crucifixion. This is because God already covered it all in the meantime, but then…aren’t we called for a little while to pretend that Easter hasn’t happened?

1) Based on a sermon by Jeremy Marshall

 

Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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