Good Friday – John 18:1-19:42
If I were to ask you what this day is about, not to explain it but to just say what happened, you would probably say the crucifixion, meaning the death of Jesus. I don’t disagree with that. It is about that but is that all it’s about?
We tend to let the cross and Jesus’ death overshadow not only this day, but the entirety of our faith, as if it is the thing and the only thing. But what if it’s just one more thing, one among many? I’m not trying to diminish or negate the cross on this day. But there is more to Jesus, his life, and this day than just his cross and death. So I want to try to enlarge the meaning of the cross and this day.
I think what this day does is hold before us, with clarity, power, and challenge, the way Jesus was always truing and aligning himself to whatever stood before him in the moment, and on this day the cross is the culmination of that way of being. At any point along the way Jesus could have backed down, turned away from his life, and ignored the event of the moment. But he didn’t. He always responded to what was calling in the event of the moment.
- When the soldiers and police come to arrest Jesus he steps forward and asks, “Whom are you looking for?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they say. “I am he.” He’s clear about who he is and he doesn’t deny it, even when he could, even when it might have benefitted him. He remains true to himself.
- Peter cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. “Put your sword back into it’s sheath,” Jesus tells Peter. And in Luke’s account Jesus heals Malchus’ ear. He doesn’t run or fight back. He stays true to his nonviolent way. He remains a healer.
- During his interrogation by the high priest Jesus says, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” In those words we hear Jesus’ alignment with truth.
- The cock crows an exclamation point to Peter’s three denials of Jesus. It happened just as Jesus said it would. And Luke tells us Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter turned away from Jesus but Jesus, true to himself, turns to his own. He was abandoned but he would not abandon.
- Why didn’t Jesus speak up before Pilate? Pilate wanted to release him. He could have said, “I am not a king. I have no kingdom. I’m just an ordinary Jew. Caesar is King.” But he didn’t. Jesus refused to play the world’s game of power.
- According to Luke Jesus said nothing to Herod. No answers, no argument, no defense, no excuses. He is who he is and he knows it. There was nothing to say. He was aligning himself with a peace that passes understanding.
- He was mocked, struck, spit upon, given a crown of thorns. And he did not turn away. He gave himself to a courage that is born of weakness and powerlessness.
- “Here is your king,” Pilate says. And Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha and there they crucified him, king and cross in complete alignment.
- Luke tells us that on the cross Jesus prayed forgiveness for his murderers. He protests the injustices done to him, not with revenge, but with forgiveness. Jesus aligned his life in such a way that justice for the unjust means forgiveness not punishment.
- In John’s account of the gospel Jesus unites his mother and the disciple whom he loved. “Woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.” Intimacy. Community. Love. Compassion. These are the qualities and values of a life trued to something beyond itself.
- Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Luke’s account, however, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” It’s not one or the other. It’s both at the same time. In one Jesus has come to his limit. In the other he opens to his future. Aren’t those what we are always trying to align in our own lives?
- “It is finished.” Those are Jesus’ last words in John’s account of the gospel. They are not words of defeat or the end of the story. They are Jesus’ recognition that his alignment with life, with the world, with you and me, with the call to which he was always responding, is now complete, fulfilled. “It is finished.”
All along the way Jesus was turning and aligning himself in two directions. He aligned himself with the people, events, circumstances, concerns, and needs that were before him regardless of who or what it was. We might think of this as his alignment with the horizontal axis of life. And he aligned himself with whatever was happening and being called for in the name of God: love, forgiveness, peace, mercy, justice, hospitality, healing, truth. We might think of this as his alignment with the vertical axis of life.
Do you get the picture I am drawing? Do you see what an aligned life looks like?
What does that alignment look like in your life today and what’s asking to be trued, calling for alignment?