Today is Good Friday. Which is the most bittersweet day on the Christian calendar.
Sorrow : Remembering: Many things - Jesus suffered at the hands of his own creation.
Joy : Because it's also a day that we remember the depth of God's love for each and every one of us.
I think it's important on a day like Good Friday, to not just skip to the punchline of Easter and really miss this deeply mysterious and wonderful and horrible thing that happened at the cross.
I believe that Jesus is the savior of the world. And as the people of the world, in so many ways, we continue to destroy ourselves and each other.
I believe it's important to remember that we believe that Jesus alone is the great hope of humanity.And that's all about the cross.
(SHOW Painting) - Matthias Grün-E-wald 15th C - German Renaissance painter
Who is - tortured, dying man - Nailed - cross?
Christians make outlandish statement: This is God. - Crucified God. If you don't find that shocking, you've become far too familiar with the crucifixion. There should be something in you that thinks that this doesn’t make sense.. - How can this tortured dying man be God?
If Christianity hadn't existed - instead people - invent a God. Wouldn't have imagined this. This isn't how you show an omnipotent, all powerful God.
Yet, this is God. - There is no clearer picture of who God is than that man, right there saying 'Father forgive them, they know not what they do.'
Tonight our mission is really simple. It's just to enter into his story.
Come with Me. Not in Believers Center. Hearts and our minds are in jerusalem. - 2000 years ago. It is the week leading up to Good Friday, the day Jesus is brutally killed.
We're one of the pilgrims who have come to believe in Jesus. We believe he is the Messiah; God's anointed king. The one who liberate us from tyranny. We followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Arrive - Jerusalem
When Jesus came to Jerusalem from Galilee, he enters the city riding on a… Donkey.
Not even a full grown donkey, but a colt. - Male donkey, younger than 4 years old. - Basically a wimpy little donkey. Wasn't an accident - Jesus did it on purpose. A parody of the great rulers of the day.
That same week, Pontius Pilate, the roman governor also came in to the city. He doesn't live in Jerusalem. Didn't care much for commoners. He has a lovely home. More like a Mansion. He had a lovely home. Mansion. Built on the seaside right off the Mediterranean sea, next to Herod the great. You can still see the ruins there. In the city named for Cesar: Caesarea.
So, at Passover. - The jewish holiday remembering their liberation from oppression.
This was a good time for people to get the idea to revolt and rebel. - This actually happened multiple times. So the roman governor knew that he couldn't just chill in his mansion, but instead had to come down to oversee. So in the same week - Jesus and Pontius Pilate BOTH come to Jerusalem.
But he is not riding a donkey. No Pontius Pilate rides, what is known as a war horse. If you were to see it you'd say "Yes there he is! The mighty governer! Great and powerful! Mighty stallion! What strength, and glory, and dignity
Meanwhile: Peasant / preacher / prophet guy from nowheresville galilee is riding a wimpy kid donkey and then these poor people surrounding him and recognizing him as the real king. Appear slightly ridiculous. Might have been some people laughing.
But we don't think so. With waving palm branches we say
“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” - “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13)
We believe - Jesus is the true king. Enough of Herod, enough of Cesar. Jesus is the true king.
Jesus goes to the Temple. - An in an act of prophetic symbolism flips the tables, and cleanses the temple. Condemning religious exploitation. There were people using religion: Control, exploit, manipulate.
"My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it into a den of thieves." (Matthew 21:13)
And from that moment on they plotted how to kill Jesus. The empire always strikes back. "We had enough of this man disturbs our religion." "Not during the festival. He's too popular. - Riot." So they sit back and wait for their opportunity.
(Skip Ahead) -
There is a meal in the village of Bethany. Mary brought her alabaster box filled with $25,000 worth of perfume. &
took the expensive ointment, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3
People criticized her.
“Leave her alone. She did a beautiful thing. She is anointing me for my burial." Mark 14:6
4 days pass, Jesus and his disciples sit down for dinner.
The disciples eating a meal with Jesus was not new. They ate together all the time. - But what they didn’t realize is this would be the last time they would be together with Jesus as the 12. And the last time they’d be with Jesus before he's killed.
It’s really a shame to call it the Last Supper. In many ways it’s the first supper, the first of millions and millions and millions of these suppers.
For 2000 years, the church has the remembered and celebrated this exact moment. It's a scene that is written on my arm. In fact, years later, the Apostle Paul would communion, a participation in the body and blood of Christ.
Following that - the mood of Jesus changes. Drastically. Judas, one of the 12 slips away and goes to the chief priests to make a deal.
Judas says "I know what you want. I know you want to arrest Jesus, but you can't, at least not out in the open. Perhaps I can find a way for you to apprehend him in private, in the dark." A deal was struck. 30 pieces of silver.
Later, Jesus becomes troubled and he goes to the garden to pray. He's in anguish, he's troubled, he's afraid, and that's when they come for him. The Temple police, led by Judas. Who betrays Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is arrested and taken away. (Song)
He's taken to the house of Caiaphas. It's really more of the palace. And there in front of the religious council, Jesus is questioned.
Caiaphas, places Jesus under oath and says:
“I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63)
"It's as you say."
Then Caiphas tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. (Matthew 26:65)
One problem: They're not allowed to execute people. The Romans have reserved that right for themselves. So they need Pilate (Roman Governor) to oversee the execution. - As luck would have it - He's in town.
But they'll need to wait till morning.
There was a water cistern - turned into a dungeon. - Shame high priest would have a dungeon, but he did.
No doubt, that's where Jesus was kept.
He would be lowered down from the top with ropes. They did the same thing with Jeremiah. He also protested the temple. 6 centuries earlier. - For that, he ended up in a cistern turned prison just like Jesus.
You can go to that cistern today. - It's overseen by Franciscan monks. - (Pic)
In it is a small pulpit, and on the pulpit is a notebook. And in that notebook, page after page after page is Psalm 88 in every type of language. You can flip through and find it in Spanish, english, french, Japanese, whatever.
Why Psalm 88? It's the psalm of the pit. It's likely the darkest psalm in the entire bible. In it, the psalmist writes from a place of despair, where everything is falling apart. - Everything is going to darkness. Church history tells us that when Jesus was alone in that pit, in pitch black darkness awaiting his death, he could be heard praying the Psalm of the pit.
Picture in your mind…
Picture in your mind - Jesus in a dungeon, total darkness, awaiting his execution, perched up against the wall. This is his prayer.
O Lord, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. (Psalm 88:1)
Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation. (Psalm 88:2)
For I am full of trouble; my life is at the brink of the grave. (Psalm 88:3)
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I have become like one who has no strength; (Psalm 88:4)
Lost among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, (Psalm 88:5)
Whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. (Psalm 88:6)
You have laid me in the depths of the Pit, in dark places, and in the abyss. (Psalm 88:7)
You have put my friends far from me; you have made me to be abhorred by them; I am in prison and cannot get free. (Psalm 88:9)
But as for me, O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:14)
Lord, why have you rejected me? why have you hidden your face from me? (Psalm 88:15)
Ever since my youth, I have been afflicted and at the point of death; I have borne your terrors with a troubled mind. (Psalm 88:16)
They surround me all day long like a flood; they encompass me on every side. (Psalm 88:18)
My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion. (Psalm 88:19)
And Jesus sits and waits for the sun to rise on the day of his execution.
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. (John 18:28)
So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” (John 18:29)
They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” (John 18:30)
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” (John 18:31)
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)
This is the question for Pilate. He has no interest in some Jewish religion that he knows little about.
People can get a little confused here, so let me explain.
The people who were plotting to kill Jesus were religious people, the religious council, led by the high priest, Caiphas. They accuse him of blaspheming God. So that's a religious crime if you will. But they didn't have the power to kill anyone.
So they take him in front of Pilate, the Roman governor, not a religious man, but a man who can absolutely have someone killed.
If he is going to kill him it's going to be for something political. Like Treason. It's going to be because he is trying to take power from Cesar. And we can't just have another man coming around claiming to be King. So it's not blasphemy OR treason. It's both. Just depends on who the accuser is.
Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)
Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” (John 18:34)
Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:35)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting. But my kingdom is not of the world.” (John 18:36)
See, the kingdom of God, is not like anything else we have here.
Babylon / Persia / Greece / Rome
These are the kingdoms that come from this world. The way of the beast. But the kingdom of God, not from this world. "If it was, my servants would be doing what your servants do: fight."
… (Pilate) went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.
But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:39)
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (John 18:40)
Barabbas was a revolutionary. Mel Gibson doesn't get this one quite right. He paints Barabbas to be maniacal psychopath killer. That's not what Barabbas was. Barabbas was a hero.
Barabbas was a revolutionary who led an uprising against the Romans and in doing so, some Romans were killed. He was a freedom fighter if you were jewish.
Oh, by the way his full name was "Jesus bar Abba" - Jesus Barabbas. Uh oh! We got ourselves 2 Jesus's on Good Friday. One who saves by shedding the blood of his enemies, the other saves by allowing his own blood to be shed.
Which do we want? - That's the question being asked. You got two Jesus's in here. Which one do you want to keep, and which one do you want to kill? The revolutionary or the one who speaks about different kind of kingdom?
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (John 18:40)
Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” (Luke 23:4)
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (Luke 23:5)
When they saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” (Luke 23:6)
The Jews answered him, “he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” (Luke 23:7)
How ironic. That's exactly what Cesar claimed to be. Every coin in the pocket of that crowd had the face of cesar and under it, the words 'The Son of God'.
… the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)
Clever - They know how to manipulate Pilate. They know where he's vulnerable. - To let Jesus go would be disloyal to nation.
So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat. (John 19:13)
He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” (John 19:14)
They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Take off masks
Wow. This really shows you what's ACTUALLY in the heart of these religious rules. "This guy is going against all your systems. Just so you know Pilate, we're playing the same game you are." They take off their masks for a moment. "We have no king but Cesar either. We talk about God. We talk about the messiah. That's how we get power. Just like you. We do it through religion, you do it through conquest, but at the end of the day, we both serve the same master, and that's Cesar. So we're gonna put on our masks again and go back to being priests, but just know, we know who the real King is too. That's power. Alright? We straight? Good. We'll put the masks back on. Now let's keep playing the game."
So Pilate delivered him over to be crucified. (John 19:16)
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha) (John 19:16)
There's a lot that can be said about Jesus here, and the path he walked.
Daylight finds him in a procession again, but this time, no one could mistake him for a king. He’s stumbling along under the weight of the instrument of his execution. A great big wooden thing that he can hardly lift, with an escort of the empire’s soldiers and the bystanders who’ve come blinking out of their lodgings.
And as much as they hate the soldiers, they hate Jesus even more for his pathetic slide into victimhood. Word of his loose living, his irreverence, his pleasure in bad company goes around in whispers. And just look at him, there is something disgusting about him, don’t you think? Something that makes you squirm inside. He’s so pale and sickly looking with that dried blood around his mouth. He looks like something from under a rock that doesn’t deserve the daylight. He’s a blot on the new day.
Someone kicks him as he goes by and whoops, down he goes, flat on his nose with a cross pinning him like a struggling insect, and let’s face it… it’s funny. Yeshua, Jesus, is a joke. He’s less a Messiah, more a patch of something nasty on the pavement… And as he struggles on he recognizes every roar and cheering face. He knows our names. He knows our histories.
But in this moment, Jesus is not just a weak and frightened man, he’s also the love that makes the world, to whom all times and places are equally present. He isn’t just feeling the anger and self disgust of this one crowd on this one Friday morning, he’s turning his bruised face towards the whole human crowd, past, present and future and accepting all we have to throw at him. Everything we fear we deserve ourselves.
“Let me take that from you”, he is saying, “Give that to me instead.. Let me carry it, let me be to blame instead. I am big enough. I am wide enough. I am not what you were told. I am the father who longs for every last one of his children. I am the friend who will never leave you. I am the light behind the darkness. I am the shining your shame can not extinguish. I am the ghost of love in the torture chamber. I am change and hope. I am the refining fire. I am the door where you thought there was only wall. I am the earth that drinks up the bloodstain. I am gift without cost. I am, I am, I am. Before the foundations of the world. I am.”
So they take Jesus - golgotha, and there they crucify him
After several hours, Jesus cried out with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
There's a lot of theology that comes from this statement Jesus makes on the cross. Some of good, much of it awful.
But however you land on that, understand that this is a prayer. It's an ancient jewish prayer. You can read it in Psalm 22. And he gets through the first half. Allow me to read a bit more of it to you.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;
by night as well, but I find no rest (Psalm 22:2)
Be not far away, O Lord; you are my strength; hasten to help me. (Psalm 22:19)
Save me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog. (Psalm 22:20)
Save me from the lion's mouth, my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls. (Psalm 22:21)
I will declare your Name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. (Psalm 22:22)
Praise the Lord, you that fear him… (Psalm 22:23)
For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them; but when they cry to him he hears them. (Psalm 22:24)
The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and those who seek the Lord shall praise him: "May your heart live forever!" (Psalm 22:26)
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him. (Psalm 22:27)
For kingship belongs to the Lord; he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28)
My soul shall live for him; my descendants shall serve him; they shall be known as the Lord's forever. (Psalm 22:30)
They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has FINISHED. (Psalm 22:31)
"The generation-to-come shall make known the saving deeds that He Has Finished." (Song)
Jesus's Prayer on the cross. - The generation to come shall make known the savings deeds that He Has Finished.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:29)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Jesus is dead. Still hanging there. On the cross.
After these things Joseph of Arimathea came and took away his body. (John 19:38)
Nicodemus also came bringing a mixture of murr and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. (John 19:39)
So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloth with the spices. (John 19:40)
And now we leave Golgotha - and along with a few of the women, we follow Joseph and Nicodemus as they carry the body of Jesus now wrapped in cloths anointed with spices. - Tenderly carry the body of Jesus from Golgotha a short distance to a walled garden, Josephs garden, wealthy man, joseph unlocks the gate and they carry the body of Jesus into this small and peaceful garden. Olive trees, fragrant flowers.
So different than the scene of Golgotha, this garden. - Peaceful. Quiet. Beauty to it. The body of Jesus was laid in this new tomb, it was going to be Joseph's tomb, but in an act of devotion he gives his tomb to Jesus.
We see Jesus laying in that tomb.
Tomb is sealed and for 3 days Jesus will stay.
I continue to be struck by the mystery of a God who bleeds. And how in so many ways, Jesus wasn't the God we were expecting. He was kind, loving, forgiving. Even in our evil, we kill Him. - He still returns offering forgiveness and grace.
If asked: Where is the center of Christian faith. We point to the cross. We say "Right there." "Where are our sins forgiven and world made right? - We point to the cross and say "Right there." This is the part that we miss: If asked: What God is like. We point to the cross and say "Right there."
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
And here's the most mysterious part:
Stay in your seats, as the ushers pass the communion elements.
As they pass :
Just spend a minute thinking about the craziness of a God who bleeds, for us. And God who comes and experiences the pain and heartache alongside His creation so that he can lift it off of you.
Healing. I guess that's what we're talking about tonight. And it's the greatest gift of all. That God himself would write himself into the story, to heal his sons and daughters.
As they do, I'd like you to ask yourself: "How has the cross healed you?"
(Ushers, please pass the communion elements…)
Jesus broke the bread and offered it to the 12. To each of them.
The bread was offered to John, the longest living disciple. Who would faithfully follow Jesus all the days of his life.
The bread was offered to Peter, who when Jesus mentions his suffering would say : "I won't let it happen, even if I have to die." But by the end of the night, he would deny Jesus 3 times.
The bread was offered to Judas, the betrayer. The one who would bless Jesus with his words, and curse him underneath his breath. And stab him in the back.
Not only is the offer extended to those who society has decided are unworthy, the offer is extended even to the ones who would betray Jesus directly.
An offer that Judas in his brokenness was not able to receive. The question is: Can you? Can you receive the kindness of Jesus that is neither earned nor deserved? But simply given, as a free gift.
No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve done it, and no matter how ashamed and unworthy you feel, you have been invited to the table.
(Bow your heads as we pray.)
Lord Jesus, we come to your table as grateful people.
And tonight, on good friday, we deliberately focus our hearts and our minds on your wonderful grace.
Life can be so complicated. But when we come to your table, everything gets real simple. A simple gift offered to us, and a simple yes is all you need from us.
So tonight we say Yes. To your forgiveness, to your grace, to your mercy, to your kindness, to your invitation.
Remember death / Proclaim resurrection / Await return
(Eat / drink.)