Good Friday

Rev. Jon Jordan
In a cold, dark, room somewhere abroad a small group of naked, tired, hungry, and defeated captives are huddled in the corner.
 
They’ve lost count of the hours, days, weeks, and years since they've experienced anything close to a normal life.
 
One night, in the middle of a monsoon, an explosion sends a wooden door, now shattered to pieces, across the room. Light floods the room in the form of half a dozen headlamps. Over the ringing of damaged eardrums, the captives hear shouted commands and see choreographed responses. In the blink of an eye, a row of uniformed men approach the huddled captives, shouting something familiar, but forgotten.
 
The soldiers are shouting, but the captives don’t budge.
 
“We’re here to save you,” the soldiers scream in as many languages as they can muster.
 
Still no response.
 
Maybe it was the shell-shock. Maybe it was miscommunication.
 
Or maybe, as another prisoner of war once recounted, these captives have been tricked before. Others have come, claiming to rescue them. Most of them have been defeated. Some of them were nefarious; disguising themselves as Navy Seals before beating their captives senseless for attempting to leave with the enemy.
 
Time is running out, but the captives have been down this road before, fooled by a would-be savior, and this time, they don't budge.
--
 
It may surprise you to hear this, but Jesus of Nazareth was one of dozens of young Jewish teachers to be put to death by the Romans in and around first-century Palestine.
 
When Jesus of Nazareth’s followers fled the scene and locked themselves in a room following his arrest, they did so because they, too, had been down this road before.
 
Ingrained in their collected memories were visions of other would-be saviors who amassed a significant following before getting cross with religious and political authorities. Each messiah figure’s life ended the same way: execution at the hands of the Romans, and arrest or worse for his followers.
 
In the world of the first century, a crucified Messiah is a failed Messiah. And on that Friday afternoon, the disciples began to realize that the past three years of their lives had been spent following a failed Messiah, one who stands in a long line of other failed Messiahs.
 
When Jesus of Nazareth’s followers fled the scene and locked themselves in a room following his arrest, they did so because they, too, had been down this road before.
 
And yet here we find ourselves, two-thousand years later.
 
A Jewish messianic figure publicly executed by the Roman government would not make theback page of a first-century newspaper; how in the world did we wind up here?
 
The cross has become one of the most universally-recognized symbols on the planet, and Jesus one of the most universally-recognized names.
 
Why? What made the crucifixion of this Jewish prophet so different from the crucifixion of the others?
 
On that Friday, the Romans did not nail a revolutionary leader to the cross.
 
On that Friday, the Romans did not nail a teacher born centuries before his time to the cross.
 
On that Friday, the Romans did not nail a traveling wise man and miracle worker to the cross.
 
No.
 
On that Friday, as one Roman soldier realized moments too late, the Romans nailed God to the cross.
 
And when God is nailed to a cross, we must respond.
 
We could respond with detached pity, feeling sorry for Jesus but not knowing what to do about it.
 
We could respond with debilitating guilt, like Javert who could not even begin to grasp the grace shown to him by Jean Valjean.
 
We could respond with noise, drowning out the uncomfortable reality of the cross.
 
Or we could respond with silence.
 
Good Friday services end in silence, and many Christians spend part of Holy Saturday in some form of silence, too. Not just to remember the silence of the grave, but to reflect on the meaning of the Cross itself.
 
-- 
 
Back in our cold, dark, room somewhere abroad, with our small group of naked, tired, hungry, and defeated captives huddled in a corner, the soldiers cannot believe the captives aren’t moving.
 
The stalemate continues for what feels like hours, until one of the soldiers stops screaming. He lowers his gun, takes off his own clothes, and crouches down in the corner of the room next to one of the captives.
 
His fellow soldiers are stunned. The captives hardly notice.
 
Eventually, one of the captives opens her eyes, and sees what the soldier has done.
 
One by one, some faster than others, the captives stand and walk towards their rescuers.
 
Words matter, but not as much as actions.
 
Do you want to know what God is like?
Do you want to know what God thinks about you?
Do you want to know whether God has love for you, despite what you alone know about yourself?
 
Look to the Cross.
 
For you Jesus Christ came into the world:
for you he lived and showed God's love;
for you he suffered the darkness of Calvary
and cried at the last, 'It is accomplished';
for you he triumphed over death
and rose in newness of life;
for you he ascended to reign at God's right hand.
All this he did for you, child, though you do not know it yet.
And so the word of Scripture is fulfilled: "We love because God loved us first.”
 
Rev. Jon Jordan
 
 
(The closing prayer is from the Church of Scotland's Book of Common Order)
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