April 9, 2004
The Gospel: John 18:1 -19:37
Sermon: "Good Friday 2004"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
John 18:1 -19:37
Good Friday 2004
April 9, 2004
Several weeks ago I saw the movie, "The Passion". I know there are many differing views about this film. I had heard many of these views before I ever went to see it. So, when I decided to see the movie I had to decide what I was going to do. Was I going to look for the various views I had heard expressed or was I going to look for something else in the film? I decided that I wanted to see how well the film portrayed the biblical accounts of the Passion. So, while I saw aspects of the many views in the film present, I paid close attention to what actually happened to the character of Jesus. I had one question constantly on my mind. How does the portrayed picture of Jesus stand up to the biblical account? I have to admit I was surprised.
I was surprised because the film did portray the passion as we know and understand it from the Gospels. I suppose I expected Hollywood to embellish a great deal but they did not. In the film as we read in the Gospel today, Jesus was arrested in the garden. The mob came with lanterns, torches and weapons. Peter did strike out and Jesus did heal the man who had been wounded. Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin and Pilate. He was beaten, whipped, and took the place of a murderer to be crucified. Once on the cross, Jesus spoke several times. Finally, he died and the soldiers put a spear in his side to be sure he was dead. So, the accounts of what happened to Jesus are very closely portrayed in the film. One thing was certain. The film did show the brutality of such an event. In fact, after the film was over everyone left the packed theatre in silence. I found myself pondering the scenes and what they meant to my belief.
As I read today's scriptures I found myself pondering the same thoughts. Jesus could have stopped this pain and torture at any time couldn't he? What was the purpose of the crucifixion? How was this part of the plan? If we believe that God is all powerful and can do anything then the crucifixion seems to be out of character with a God who loves deeply. God could simply make us love. God didn't have to resort to this torture and murder to achieve salvation for humanity. God can simply make it so and it will be. After all, all we have to do is resolve to love God and we can do it ourselves. All we have to do is decide to love our neighbor and we can manage it all on our own. We have the ability inside us to make ourselves love one another without ever hurting anyone, without ever lying, without ever causing any pain. We can do it all ourselves can't we? If that is the case then ultimately we have no need of God for we are ourselves gods. What a slippery slope upon which we just stepped.
The reality is we need God more than ever. From the beginning God gave us two gifts. The first gift we received was life. We have the ability to think, to feel, to see, to touch, and mostly to love. We also have the free ability to choose. We can choose to laugh or cry. We can choose to shake hands or make a fist. We can choose to help or to hurt. We can choose to love or to hate. We had to have this choice. To love without being given the option to love is not true love. It is manipulation. God does not want manipulated love. God wants love freely received and freely given. God's desire is for us to love because we choose to love freely. For the most part we do. But our petty desires tend to get in the way. Instead of loving and tearing down barriers we often tend to hurt and build up barriers.
Jesus came to help us see the depth of God's love. Jesus came to teach us to break down barriers. Jesus came to show us that following God's will is ultimate freedom. Finally, because we can not help ourselves and our frail nature, Jesus came to die for us. Jesus loves God and loves us so much that he gave everything he had to give. Jesus died on that cross out of pure love for us. Jesus could have stopped the pain and torture at anytime but that would have defeated the purpose. True love does not quit when the going gets tough. Our own sinfulness does trap us, holds us and condemns us. To be free, that sinfulness was taken on Christ's shoulders. Christ freed us from the trap, broke any hold sin has on us, and freed us from our own condemnation. The tool he used to free us was the ultimate tool of death and degradation, the cross. He offered himself freely and took all of the hurt, pain and degradation the world had to offer. Even though he suffered greatly his free offering gave us perfect freedom to be in full relationship with God.
So, Jesus could have stopped the pain but he would not have accomplished the task. The task was to show us perfect love, a love that trusts in God because love is eternal. Jesus died to set us free from the bonds of sin that entrap us in this life. Crucifixion was the most horrible way to die man had invented at the time. By dying in this manner, Jesus showed us that God's love is stronger than anything we can imagine. That love provides the hope, the joy and the power that is in the resurrection.
As I watched the film I became keenly aware of one other thought in my mind. Many cultures have had many great teachers, prophets and sages. Many of these men and women have promoted love and peace both within themselves and for others. Yet, in no other faith does the sage offer themselves as a source of life and redemption for the sins of others. Jesus takes the teaching of love to the ultimate end. Yet, we still see through the glass darkly. We still do not have all of the answers. We do have a God who loves us with a perfect love and is willing to sacrifice it all for our salvation. We in turn are asked to share that love with everyone we meet.
Today we remember that Jesus died for all of us on that cross. Today we can thank God for the offering of God's own self on that cross. We can thank God for the incredible offering of love. Most of all we can offer that kind of love, deep meaningful acceptance, caring and compassion to everyone we meet. AMEN