Good Friday 2016
Pastor Tim Inman
The story of Christ’s Crucifixion on Friday starts at a holiday meal with his friends onThursday, Jesus held up the bread saying it was his body. He called the wine his blood, poured out for them. But it wasn’t the first time he’d spoken like this, his disciples may have remembered a very different moment, what I imagine was a sunny morning by the lake.
Jesus was teaching a crowd of people by a lake. Many in the crowd had recently seen Jesus perform a food multiplication miracle, feeding 5000 people. They were back for more! Jesus told them he knew they were only trying to fill their stomachs, but led them on a deeper discussion, encouraging them to put their faith in Him. Using the food metaphor, He calls himself the bread of life, and knew that some of his listeners didn’t like it they remembered him as Joseph’s son.
He took it a step further: (from John 6)
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so (listen to this) the one who feeds on me will live because of me.This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
That was an incredibly awkward moment awkward enough that many of his followers threw in the towel. They had heard some strange things, but did he expect them to accept cannibalism?
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
“the one who feeds on me will live because of me”
Jesus was making it clear that in order to have this abundant, eternal life he was offering, his followers would need to be willing to take advantage of his suffering. His pain would be their gain.
Now back to the Thursday evening dinner party.
Jesus seemed to be hinting that his death was near. Judas left the table early. Jesus took his followers on a hike through a vineyard toward Gethsemane, teaching them and praying for them. When he reached Gethsemane he asked for their prayers. They were too tired. Jesus pleaded with His Father.
Although Jesus knew exactly where He was headed and why, he pleaded with the Father. “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'" Finally he resolved to go through with his mission:
“O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done’ Throughout scripture ‘cup’ is a metaphor for suffering.
This mission of suffering was a hard pill to swallow, but Jesus was willing. In the early hours of the morning. Judas showed up again, kissing Jesus as a means of identifying him to a posse of soldiers and temple guards. The soldiers arrested and seized Jesus without a fight, but Peter swings is sword at one of them, lopping off an ear. The cup is still in Jesus mind, he tells Peter: “"Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"
Jesus was handed between the High Priest, to Herod, the Jewish King, and Pilate the Roman governor, who was perplexed because he could find no law which Jesus had broken. Finally, Pilate turns to the crowd for a way out. It was the custom, during that holiday season, to pardon a prisoner. Pilate really seemed to want to release Jesus. He was bothered, either by his conscience, or by a dream his wife had. He offered to release Jesus or Barabbas to the crowd. They would decide. I want you to imagine your least favorite politician. Someone who you believe is a troublemaker, only making things worse. Now imagine that person is actually convicted of crimes against our nation, and jailed. Do you feel a sense of satisfaction?
Barabbas was an insurgent, a dirty politician, convicted of murder. Today we would call him a terrorist. Who did the crowd want pardoned? Give us Barabbas. What shall I do with Jesus, Pilate asked. Crucify Him.
All Jesus had done was seek to exemplify his fathers’ love to humankind. Encouraging and healing people everywhere he went. Jesus was the innocent man about to be murdered. Barabbas was the murderer treated as an innocent and set free. But Barabbas wasn’t the first or last lawbreaker.
The science fiction writer, Isaac Asmov, established famous, rules of robotics. A robot must never disobey a human, and a robot must never hurt a human. Stories in which robots disobey those rules make good science fiction. We aren’t really robots, we are more like clones. Scripture tells us that we were created in God’s image, with freewill. It didn’t take long for humans to break the rules, and when we do, things go badly.
Scripture also tells us that sin causes death and destruction, but we can see that for ourselves. Just like those robot apocalypse movies, ours is a story of the created turning against their creator. Adam and Eve sinned, preferring a sense of equality with God to obedience. Not long after that one of their sons killed the other and things spiralled out of control.
A culture of sin put the world and all creation into a downward spiral. The sin was so great it was every man for himself all suffering, all the time. The great flood was an act of mercy, ending a culture so tainted with sin that suffering was only increasing with each new generation born.
In a second intervention, God confused man’s languages at the Tower of Babble, spreading humankind across the globe. In another intervention, God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants and gave them a system of law the law didn’t fix the sin and death problem but at least exposed it.
Jesus coming to live and die at the hands of humanity was God’s final measure to fix the sin and death problem. It was an act of love great enough to absorb all hate. Jesus said about himself: “For God so loved the world that He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” And “I came that you might have life, life to the full!” ‘the one who feeds on me will live because of me’
His mission was never hidden, although few could have understood what it was really about until it was over. Barabbas was only set free because the crowd had an appetite for Christ’s blood. He would benefit from Christ’s suffering. Not only would he live and Jesus die, he would live because Jesus died. No one would write this into a story or a movie. In all our best movies the bad guy gets it in the end.
Remember what Jesus said to the crowd by the lake? “the one who feeds on me will live because of me”. Maybe we don’t have to imagine our least favorite politician to identify with the character of Barabbas. But I’m no murderer, we protest. I’m no Barabbas!
We are always trying to justify our selfish sinfulness by comparison, but Jesus made it clear that there’s no point. Hate is as good as murder, lust as good as adultery, he said. We are all sinners, creating suffering and deserving the consequences we set in motion.
“The one who feeds on me will live because of me.” The cup. Suffering. Jesus endured crucifixion so that we could have Spiritual life. Pilate wanted to set Jesus free, but the religious leaders were having none of it. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”, said the men who had no love for Rome or Caesar. He was flogged. Beaten till nearly dead. Tortured. He was made to carry his own cross and then nailed to it.
Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours, slowly suffocating. In agony and despair, he cried out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”, and finally, “It is finished.”
What was finished? his mission the cup.
For the joy set before him, Christ endured the cross. Was the cross joyful? Certainly not. The joy was ahead of him in the future. The joy of pleasing the father. The joy of reconciling humanity with it’s creator. Turning sin and death upside down. Christ’s death was the surprise ending. He rose from the dead, defeating not only his own death, but the spiral of sin and death which has been out of control since day one.
If you’ve never taken advantage of Christ’s sacrifice, today is your day. Stake your hope for the future on Him and receive Him as Lord. "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die,” he told Martha.
Through Jesus, God extends His grace and forgives us of sin, but in Jesus He also extends the grace to avoid sin and inspires us to live for something greater than ourselves. As His imitators, we have our own cross to carry. We are inspired to deny ourselves and sacrificially extend his love to humanity.
An act of love so bold that it transforms humanity, inspiring and empowering us to live beyond ourselves? That is how the what looked like most tragic day in history became Good Friday.
Let’s think about that as we drink our cup.