Many thanks to Father Riley, Cecil, and Vickie for a beautiful Good Friday service. And, a thank you to all the readers during our Stations of the Cross.
1. If you would like to make a "Good Friday" offering, belatedly, please put cash for Good Friday offering in an envelope with "Good Friday Offering" on it; or, make your check to Christ Episcopal Church with "Good Friday Offering" in the 'for' space and place it in the offering plate Easter Sunday. Following our Episcopal tradition, the Good Friday offering will go "...to support the ongoing ministry of love and compassion carried out by our Anglican sisters and brothers throughout the Province of Jerusalem and Middle East." (The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate)
2. Easter Sunday will include the flowering of the cross. Bring as many beautiful flowers as you can and we will celebrate Easter Sunday at 10am.
3. Please consider continuing your Easter with watching "Jesus Christ Superstar" on NBC Easter Sunday at 7pm CDT.
SEE YOU EASTER! Peace be with you.
GOOD FRIDAY - B - 18
THE PASSION ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN
For the second time this week, we listen quietly to the Passion Narrative. We heard it first from St. Mark as we celebrated Palm Sunday, and we hear it again today from St. John. Both accounts tell the same story of Jesus’ arrest in the garden, his mock trial before the Sanhedrin, his denial by Peter and finally his being brought before the Roman governor and sentenced to die on the cross.
There are a few subtle differences in John’s reporting as opposed to Mark’s that are worth noting. Mark’s Jesus is silent before Pilate. Pilate asks many questions of Jesus but Jesus gives no answers. Whereas in John a dialogue ensues between Jesus and Pilate with Jesus admitting that he is a king. O the other hand, Jesus refuses to answer Pilate’s question “where are you from?”
In contrast to Mark’s account that Jesus was totally abandoned at the cross, John tells us that his mother and two other women along with the beloved disciple stood at the foot of the cross and watched him suffer and die. I have often wondered why John, the supposed beloved disciple, was the only one of the twelve who was present. Was he there because the mother of Jesus asked him to escort her to the place of her son’s execution?
We simply do not know. What we do know is that he was there according to John, and that Jesus entrusted his mother to him and from that day forward John cared for her as if she were his own mother. This was Jesus’ gift from the cross and John accepted it.
The story of Jesus’ death on the cross is a tragedy from our human perspective. That is the way the world views it. However, it is not how God viewed it. Strangely enough, it was part of God’s plan from the beginning. The Passion of Christ was the cup Jesus prayed in the garden that might pass him by.
It was the means by which the world was saved from sin and death whether the world knew it then or not or for that matter knows it today. Throughout the gospels, Christ speaks of the coming day of his glory.
He tells his mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she asks him to do something for her, that it is not yet time. He retreats with his disciples on more than one occasion when it appears the people want to make him a king. He teaches time and time again that the concept of king the people are holding to is not who he is, not what he is about, and that God’s kingdom is unlike any earthly kingdom they know.
However, on this day he admits to Pilate that he is a king and yet, he says, his kingdom is not of this world. Thus, he was crowned as a king by the soldiers who mocked him by setting a crown of thrones upon his head and a purple cloak around his shoulders. Pilate wrote the charge that was nailed above his head as he hung dying on the cross - “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”
His accusers protested saying that he was not their king that they had no king but Caesar, that Jesus only claimed to be a king. His glorification, his enthronement, if you will, came, as he was nailed to the cross and lifted up for all the world to see. He was crucified between two others; one on his right and one on his left. This was the day Jesus knew would come and he knew how it would come.
Earlier in Mark, following Jesus’ third prediction of his death and resurrection; the sons of Zebedee, James and John, had asked Jesus for a favor. He had said what is it you want me to do for you. They said; grant us to sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your glory.
To which Jesus responded: “you do not know what your are asking.” Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? They said yes, of course we are able. Jesus replied, you will. But to sit at my right hand or my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.
The brothers did not understand then, and maybe they never did, that Jesus meant the two others who would be crucified on either side of him on the day he became king. Their focus was on themselves and how in their earthly way of thinking they might come to share in his glory and his power.
His death on the cross is the means by which he becomes king with a power that is utterly redefined. So much so that the world, for the most part, including his own disciples, did not recognize it. Nor for the most part, does our world recognize it today. It is not what power looks like in our world.
No, the power of this world has been turned upside down by the events of Good Friday. The crucifixion of Jesus is how God established his kingdom. It is the event that declared that God is the God of Love.
It was the love of God that sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it. It was the love of God that was manifested on the cross in Christ’ willingness to suffer death for the sins of the whole world, for yours and for mine. Calvary, then, is not about tragedy it is about love.
And another thing, St. John was not the only one to receive a gift from the cross, for all who believe in Christ, as the One whom God has sent to be the Savior of the world, have been given the gift of eternal life. AMEN+