(watch here: https://youtu.be/ZEC0zqqO7Fs)
27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’
38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’ 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’
55Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
So it’s Good Friday, and Jesus is on the cross. All the disciples sit weeping at the foot of the hill. Suddenly, Peter hears the voice of Jesus calling out faintly, “Peter…Peter…come here, Peter….” Peter leaps up, crying, “My master needs me!” He scrambles up the hill, only to be met by the Roman soldiers, who rough him up and send him rolling back down the hill. As Peter lies there, he hears Jesus calling again, saying, “Peter…come here, Peter….” Peter cries again, “My master needs me! Coming, Lord!”
This time, Peter makes it all the way to the foot of the cross before the Roman soldiers beat him up and send him rolling back down the hill again. Once again, Peter hears Jesus calling his name. “Peter…where are you, Peter?” “My master needs me!” Peter exclaims. Peter bulls his way up the hill, hurdles past the soldiers, throws a ladder up against the cross, and scrambles up the rungs. As the Romans are reaching to pull him down, Peter breathlessly asks, “Yes, Lord? What is it?” “Peter…I can see your house from here, Peter….”
Unlike that joke suggests, we heard Jesus didn’t have much to say on the cross. Was it because he was in cahoots with all those who contributed to his suffering or mocked him in his suffering? Were they all simply obeying commands that Jesus himself had given? Last evening we reflected on why neither Jesus nor Judas revealed Judas’ identity as Jesus’ betrayer. The lost Gospel of Judas proposes that Judas and Jesus were working together in Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus needed a betrayer to set in motion his arrest, death, and crucifixion and Judas faithfully served that role, at least according to the Gospel of Judas. It’s a provocative idea that relieves Judas of a lot of the blame. He was simply doing what Jesus had commanded him to do in betraying him to the Romans and religious authorities! The problem with that line of thinking is that Jesus doesn’t use people that way. Jesus works in and through and for people. Judas, like all of us, acted on his own free will and Jesus used his actions to reveal his love. Jesus no longer needed words to express his love for us. He had said all he needed to say at the Last Supper: “Take, eat; this is my body”…”this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” That is all Jesus had to say. All that was left for him to convey his love was to actually endure the suffering and mockery and agony of his arrest and crucifixion. It was in his endurance, not his words, that Jesus showed his love to us.
Jesus was working in and through the mocking soldiers, the deriding passersby, the provoking chief priests, and the taunting bandits alongside him. His silence only amplified his love all the more. Jesus showed what it is to truly love someone–a willingness to lay down one’s life for that person. Words couldn’t express such a sacrifice, only actions. And what amazing actions they were! Who among us could endure the agony of his interrogation and torture? Who among us could endure the defeat of the cross? And endure it all in silence? Some of us would like to think we could but I’d be surprised if we could. The injustice and unfairness of it all begs for defiance! Maybe it’s an American privilege but we can’t help ourselves from crying out at the injustice of Jesus’ last day. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of injustice and unfairness in the world…been here long before Jesus and will be here long after we’re gone. And not everyone feels compelled to resist it. Most people simply accept it as simply part of this world. But not us Americans…we think it is our duty to correct it and ensure justice and fairness prevail. Maybe that’s what Jesus intended in his silence, for us to put words to the injustice and work towards bringing about justice. After all, we are his hands and feet now. We are the body of Christ tasked with sharing his love and justice in a broken world. It’s up to us now.
Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:1-2) Jesus endured the agony of interrogation and torture and crucifixion because he loved us. Not because he had to, not because he deserved it, not because WE deserved it, but because he loved us, plain and simply. Love makes us do some pretty amazing things and Jesus is no less susceptible to the power of love than we are. Anyone who has ever loved understands that sometimes love demands sacrifice. Sometimes we must give up something to ensure love carries on. Jesus gave his very life to ensure love would carry on. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (5:14-15) Just as injustice and unfairness have been with us for a long time now, so, too, has love been with us as a counterbalance. All of creation from the beginning of time attests to the deep and abiding love of God. We are but mere conduits of his love. Jesus died so that love would carry on through us. Let us accept our responsibility and pass that love on to others. I’ve long believed that it is only when we fail to accept such responsibility…when we fail to act as conduits for God’s love…that God says, “Okay, your time on earth has come to end. Time to come home to me, to bask in my love yet again.” Let us rejoice that Jesus died because of love and for the sake of carrying on love. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.