005 Good Friday Sermon 2006

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This page forms part of the resources for 005 Crucifixion of Jesus in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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Notes for a sermon at an ecumenical Good Friday service

today we focus on the central mystery of our faith - the cross
it is a brute fact, indeed the brute fact, for Christian faith

Jesus died

  • by crucifixion
  • condemned as a dangerous maverick
  • a threat to good order and decent society (as defined by those with power)

I suggest we focus on three aspects of the crucifxion:

  • it happened
  • it was not the last word about Jesus
  • it turns our reality upside down

Another day another (few) crucifixion(s)

crucifixion in Roman world was both cruel and common
intended not so much to kill (although it did that well enough) as to shame
in a society where shame was worth than death

like public executions in many societies
the aim was to deter potential trouble-makers

several thousand "Jewish rebels" were crucified during Pilate's 10 years in office
as a child in Galilee, Jesus would have seen rebels crucified at one mile intervals on the roads

Jesus knew about crucifixion
crucifixion was a commonplace in Roman-occupied Palestine
like checkpoints in today's Israeli-occupied Palestine
part of the everyday experience of life under occupation

like child victims of poverty, disease and malnutrition in today's world
the death of such victims attracted little official attention
(Jesus was given neither a legal sentencing document nor a death certificate)
and even less public sympathy

when final solution is not the last word ...

in the case of Jesus, and despite the public shame of it all ...

  • love continued
  • deterence failed
  • his movement spread
  • transforming power of his vision of "God's empire" would capture Rome

he is remembered as saying that when lifted up all would be drawn to him
what should have been his annihilation becomes his ascent to prominence

reality reversed, normality overturned

ponder this death of this man

  • he was not born to die (a horrible idea unworthy of our theology)
  • yet death (this death, his death) defined him

this death was the capstone to his life
this death served as a seal of integrity for his words & deeds
this death was the ink for an indelible watermark attesting his authenticity

on Good Friday it is hard to stay with the Cross and not look ahead to Easter morning
but I invite you to try to avoid Easter - for now
try to appreciate the Cross in own terms (without invoking Easter as the solution)

this death calls the bluff of evil
it embrace the risk but strives to reach a new height
it represents a "but if not" kind of faith such as seen in Daniel's three young men

that is the faith we celebrate

  • a faith that transforms world
  • a faith to live by
  • a faith to die for
  • a faith that calls us beyond denominational identity to deeper discipleship

©2006 Gregory C. Jenks