Hell Awaits – A Sermon for Good Friday, John 18:1-19:42

Good Friday, Sermon, Holy Week, Death, Crucifixion John 18:1-19:42

Good Friday, Sermon, Holy Week, Death, Crucifixion John 18:1-19:42Last night we began taking our share with Jesus. We ate the last supper. We washed feet. We stripped the altar. We come here today much the same as we left here last night. The table of our last supper has been cleared and is empty. The water that washed our feet has dried and the basin is empty. The altar of our life has been stripped bare and is empty. It feels like hell; death always does.

Last night’s drama has become today’s crucifixion (John 18:1-19:42). Today there is only the cross. Jesus is dead. In him all our last suppers, our loves, and our life’s altars hang before us. Life is gone.

Today, more than anything else, I want to run away. I want to run away from Jesus’ cross and death. I want to run away from my own death. I want to run away from our son’s death. I want to run away from the deaths of my family. I want to run away from your deaths. I don’t know where I’d go. I just want to get away. Anywhere but here.

I know you understand what I am feeling and talking about. I’ve seen your tears and heard your cries. I’ve listened to your questions. I’ve held your hands and hugged you. I’ve watched death take from you what you did not want to give up.

Running from death is how most of us grew up. It continues to be what most of us do or at least try to do. It’s what we were taught to do. We were told death is the end. There is nothing left. It’s over. So we ran for our life. We railed against God. We asked questions for which there are no answers. We sought explanations of a mystery that can only be experienced and not understood. Mostly though we lived, and often continue to live, in fear, as prisoners of death.

The years, the deaths, and the Good Fridays have, however, taught me that no matter how far or fast we run we can never get away. Crosses stand throughout our lives and our world. Death is real. Every time we deny the reality of death the cock crows, mocking our fear and despair, our isolation and abandonment, our tears and sorrow.

Taking our share with Jesus did not end with the last supper, the foot washing, or the stripping of the altar. It has brought us to this day, this day of death, and it will take us though this day. Don’t ask how or why. I don’t know. I have no more explanations or answers for you today than I had last night. I have only the mystery of death and the paradox of Good Friday, and it is enough.

So that today we stand at the foot of the cross. There is nowhere else to go. In a few moments we will pray the solemn collects for the Church, the nations, and the people of the world. We will name the suffering, the miseries, and the sorrows of our lives and our world. We will remember those who have died. We will pray to the God who, on days like this, seems to have left us.

Don’t follow along and just read the words. Let yourself feel and enter the isolation and abandonment of this day. Ask the question that always haunts us on this day, “Where is God?” Ask it not to get an answer, but to enter the mystery. Picture the faces of your loved ones who have died. Call their names. Recount the losses of all that you cherished and held dear. Continue taking your share with Jesus.

Today we know ourselves to be in hell; not because we’ve been bad or are being punished but because death is real. Then we will do the craziest thing. It makes absolutely no sense but we will do it anyway.

+ We glory in Jesus’ cross.
+ We declare that joy has come to the world by virtue of his cross.
+ We adore and bless Christ because by his holy cross he has given us life.
+ We sing about the faithful cross.

That’s the mystery of death and the paradox of Good Friday. It means there is more to this day than death. The cross is not the end. It is Jesus’ entry into and presence with us in the last place we ever wanted to be. So today we take our share in him that he might take his share in our hell. Today Jesus is on the cross, death is here, and hell awaits.

In fear and trembling, hell awaits.


Holy Week Sermons


  1. You say, “Ask the question that always haunts us on this day, ‘Where is God?’ Ask it not to get answer, but to enter the mystery.” When God doesn’t seem to be around, we’re not interested in mystery. We want and think we need concrete answers. But perhaps this Holy Weekend can teach us: sometimes we endure the hell of waiting. The Friday nights and Saturdays of our lives often are dark before we experience the mystery of Easter.


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