Sermon - Good Friday (4/19/2019)
Is. 52:13-53:12; Ps. 22; Heb. 4:14-16, 5:7-9; Jn. 18:1-19:42
The Passion according to John is solemn, but it is not sad. It is the story of how Jesus suffered and died, but it is even more a story about how through it all, and even to the end, Jesus remains who he is – the Word of God made flesh, fully God and fully human. Fully God, even when being arrested, when he says “I am,” those who are arresting him fall down like Moses when the voice from the burning bush said “I am.”
And fully human, more human in fact than anyone who had ever lived, fully aware of being the Son of a loving Father, fully aware of his very existence as an extravagant gift from God, fully engaged in a life of giving and receiving love as God has always intended for all human beings.
He came into a world that has for a long time, almost from the very beginning, been trying to live apart from God’s love, living less than fully human lives, fighting, taking, trying to make our own meaning and happiness rather than living in love as God created us to do.
That world, of course, did not know what to do with him. Look, the chief priest said, it would be better for everyone if this man would just die. Even the Roman governor Pilate, who can’t figure out what crime Jesus could possibly be guilty of, comes to agree that the chief priest was right – the only way to preserve order, to maintain the powers that be, to stop the questions that threaten to overthrow the whole world that Pilate knows, is for this man to die.
And so he does. And when the end arrives, as it does eventually for us all, he says: It is finished. This human life, this life of one who was more fully human than anyone who had ever lived, is finished. Remaining faithful to the end to the God who loved him into existence and to every other human being who is equally loved by God, even if they don’t know it.
And even John the Evangelist has to admit, when the high priest said it would be better for everyone if this man died, the high priest was not wrong. Not that his death, in itself, accomplished anything – as a fully human being, Jesus had to die sooner or later. But in completing, in finishing, a fully human life, enduring the worst of what human beings are willing to do to one another and remaining faithful and fully loving until the end, Jesus opened for us a way to live fully human lives as well. For us to know that we too are unconditionally beloved children of God, made to find life and happiness in loving and serving our neighbors. For us to discover, as Jesus did, that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God who continues to breathe us into life.
So this Good Friday is solemn, but it is not sad. As we continue with the ancient liturgy of Good Friday, with the intercessions and procession of the cross, we give thanks not for a death, but for a human life lived fully and perfectly until the end, a life lived in the sure and certain hope that even in suffering and death we are all held in the hands of the living God who made us and who asks only that we be fully human in our love and care for one another.