Good Friday 2017
*True confession, this is a re-worked Good Friday sermon I wrote a few years back. Unfortunately, the themes of selfishness, oppression, and fear remain strong in our world, so it still spoke to the current truth of Good Friday.
We all need protection. We worship inside tonight to be protected from outside forces – the cool breeze, wild animals, the falling darkness.
There is so much that we want protection from. As we are bombarded by horror stories on the nightly news...we are more and more aware of every threat, every potential for harm, every dark corner, every danger is raised. We are oh, so aware of all that we want protection from.
In the passion story according to the gospel of John there is a constant theme of protection. The acts of protecting are not overt, the acts of protecting do not help everyone. Certainly, Jesus was not protected. But at every step Jesus was the one protecting.
In the garden, at the moment of his arrest Jesus steps forward to meet the military detachment, meaning 600 military soldiers. 600 armed men all for the arrest of one unarmed man. Jesus steps forward and says, “leave the others alone, it is me you are looking for.” Protection is present for every other person in that garden. Even Judas, even the betrayer is protected.
And while he is walking the road in Jerusalem, the slow, heavy and death-filled march with the cross Jesus stops. Jesus looks at his mother, the woman who bore him in a crude animal stall and who will now watch him die like a crude animal. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is standing next to a disciple when Jesus says, “Woman, here is your son.” And then, to the disciple, “Here is your mother” introducing person to person, protecting his family, protecting his followers. Jesus is making sure that no one will be left alone in their grief and despair. Jesus is giving protection from emotional isolation, protecting his mother from all that it meant in that day for a woman to be without the connection to a man. Even as he walks with the cross on his back, Jesus is offering surprising and meaningful protection right where it is needed most...at the foot of the cross.
Jesus is even protecting the Word of God. Throughout the reading of the gospel we heard the recurring theme of Jesus doing something or saying something in order to fulfill what had been written. Since the beginning of creation, God's word has been giving hints and glimpses into what the life and death of Jesus would mean for the world. And here, throughout the passion story Jesus is obedient to the Word of God. Jesus is obedient to what the prophets spoke in God's name. Jesus is protecting the promises and will of God, so that our sinful and broken world might know judgment and saving grace through this cross he is carrying. Those simple words, “to fulfill what the scriptures have written” are historical and rich acts of protection.
There is so much that we need protection from, and Jesus is the one offering the protection for us. And what about those that need protection from us?
Who protects Jesus from our sin and our pride?
Who protects from our foolishness and lack of compassion?
Who protects those in the world who are most vulnerable? We remember the persecuted Christians in Egypt, the civilians in Syria, the peaceful Muslims in our own country, the mentally ill, the elderly, the lonely.
When our pride and fear and hardened hearts keep us from speaking up or acting out, who protects the least among us? Who protects from the news headlines and the alarmist reports? Who protects the victims of hatred and cruelty? Who protects those that suffer from emotional pain and persecution? Who protects when we're too busy, too good, too selfish, too righteous?
The unarmed, betrayed, rejected one. Why does Jesus protect us? To save us from all suffering and evil? No, we are not rescued from hurting and sorrow, nor are we protected from the cross of dying. Jesus protects us from every being alone, Jesus protects us from surrendering to the darkness of our lives by creating a way – through death and life – to the God of love, the God of relationship, the God who suffers with us, the God who ultimately forgives by the way of suffering and death and love.
Jesus takes all of this to the cross and protects us by uniting us with the criminal, the forgotten, uniting us even with the ones we hurt, with the least and lonely, with those who are sick, with those who are dying.
And who protects Jesus? No one.
You do not.
I do not.
God does not.
Jesus is on the cross, alone, forsaken.
And he speaks, “It is finished.”
Our separation from God – it is finished.
The ruling of darkness is our world – it is finished.
The brokenness of our hearts – it is finished.
The final word of death – it is finished.
All of this, finished, in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus Christ has truly offered the protection we so desire and need, and we have to live with that, and in that.
It is finished.