Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017

Each year on Good Friday we read the Passion Account of John 18-19. I divided the reading into three parts and here is my reflections from the service:

The brutality of the crucifixion needs to be interpreted. God is speaking to us; revealing redemption. Redemption is an economic term which means "buy back." It is especially applied to purchasing the freedom of slaves. The Father's purpose in creation has been hampered by human sin. When the Word became flesh to dwell among us to deal with the problem. God "buys us back" from the world of sin and death in Jesus in this new creation.

At its heart, sin is betrayal. Betrayal must be redeemed. We are all victims of betrayal, but we are also perpetrators. We have all betrayed Jesus and the characters in the Gospel serve as archetypes of each of us.

Judas is a traitor, but this Gospel pays little attention to him and his fate. We were told he was a thief (12:6) stealing from the group purse. We know the devil entered his heart (13:2). Our sins open our hearts to Satan.

Peter strikes with a sword--betraying the mission of Jesus--but then in cowardice denies Him three times. We deny Jesus regularly.

The High Priest and his cohort betray Jesus into Roman hands. They are false shepherds. We also hide behind others to betray Jesus' cause into the hands of worldly power.

The Roman leadership--Pilate and the soldiers--abuse Jesus terribly, blind to his humanity. How often are we blind to the poor and oppressed? How do we trample on Jesus in the name of political financial prosperity?

But it is the nameless crowd who cry, "Give us Barabbas!" We hide in the crowd and we cry too choose anyone but Jesus. We go along with popular opinion because it is easier to anonymously betray the Holy One than stand up for Him.  

Jesus redeems all of this betrayal. He receives every act of deceit into His body and soul. He unites our betrayal with the heart of God and sanctifies it in the light and love of the Father. Your worst experiences of betrayal as a victim and as a perpetrator---Jesus makes its holy.
Listen to God's word [read John 18]
God's Power is perfect love, so it is revealed in weakness.
To the outside observer, Jesus appears helpless before Pilate. Pilate has the Roman Empire with its wealth and armies. Jesus, however, has the truth. And an amazing secret. "You would have no power over Me," says Jesus, "except what the Father allows." Pilate is dismissive, yet frightened of Jesus. Pilate senses something different here. He will mock Jesus and Israel by calling Him 'King of the Jews,' but paradoxically it becomes a profession of the truth by the Roman Emperor's representative.

Worldly power appeals to us. We want to make decisions and have others do our bidding. We are seduced by power, but too often we find ourselves powerless and out of control. We have limits. Sometimes we feel needy, helpless and alone. Jesus redeems us. He is one with every victim. He redeems our darkest hour---as He embraces rejection, torture and death--we are not alone. Jesus also forgives what we have done to others. 

listen to Love's redeeming power [John 19:1-25a]

A mother sees her baby boy, hanging in agony on a cross. She would have traded places with Him if she could. Instead, she suffers with Him, like every mom feeling the pain of her children; Mary suffers with Him. Jesus redeems the troubles of family life, by bringing family into the heart of God. Jesus shares our experience. With His dying breath He entrusts his mom to the care of a friend. We are the Disciple to whom Jesus entrusts the broken. He redeems human suffering through the healing ministry of His disciples--the church. We heal and we are healed--in His redeeming love.

Psalm 22, Psalm 69, Exodus 12, Zechariah 12:10...
Most Christians do not read the Jewish Scripture. We call them old, unimportant. Jesus says they are alive and life giving. Jesus is the Word made flesh. In His death Jesus redeems the Bible. Jesus removes the veil, and each Scripture is illuminated by His life and death. Jesus takes the Bible and fulfills each promise.

Jesus, like every human, dies. We don't know when, but someday our journey ends with a last breath. In Jesus, God is embraced by death. In Jesus, the Light enters the darkness of the grave and fills it with the divine presence. The terror of death is redeemed by the hope of meeting our Creator and Savior who loves us. Death is horrible, but now it belongs to God. Death is conquered by Life.

Listen to God speak to you [John 19:25b-42]
John instructs us. The incarnation, the life and ministry of Jesus. They redeem us. The suffering and death of Jesus redeem us. There is more to come, resurrection, ascension and the gift of the Spirit, these too redeem us.

The cross sets you free and redeems you. Will you open your heart to receive its power to save?
Trust Jesus.
Love Him.
Let the Holy Spirit fill you with Divine light and fire.

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