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DFLC Sermon - Good Friday, March 29, 2024 - Deacon Sharon Brennen

SERMON – “Every Breath You Take” – March 29, 2024  Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, A Modern Day Passion Reading

(and also John 18:1-19:42


The passion stories are always painful to hear.  Because we were there.  We were a part of the crowd and a part of those yelling “Crucify!”   Even now, when we hope for the Christ who is to come again, will we recognize Him when He comes?


John’s Gospel is different than the others.  There is no Garden of Gethsemane for prayer; and even though it does talk about Judas “the evil one”; it does not mention Judas betraying Jesus there with a kiss.  There is also the timing of Jesus’ death itself.  The “day of preparation” for Passover is Thursday, with the Passover meal eaten that night.  Since the Jewish day begins at sunset, Friday would begin on Thursday evening.  John’s account has Jesus dying on the Thursday, as the Passover lambs are being killed in the temple.  The other Gospels have Jesus sharing the actual Passover meal with his disciples; and this implies that the lambs have already been killed and that Jesus’ death takes place on the Friday.  Jesus is also more in control in John’s Gospel.  Jesus’s mere words “I am he” to Roman soldiers while in the Kidron Valley with his disciples has them falling back at his authority.  Jesus even dares to question the high priests and the Roman governor—during the other Gospels he is more silent. 


When Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, who had also been a High Priest, questions Jesus about his followers, his teachings, his plans, any possible blasphemy… Jesus replies strongly that “all he has done and said has not been in secret but out in the open for all to see and hear.”  And he challenges Annas to ask others what wrong he might have done.  Annas then hands Jesus off to Caiaphas, who IS the high priest at the time.  We do not hear about this meeting.


Instead we are right at the meeting with Pilate, the Roman governor.  Pilate at first wants nothing to do with this issue and tells the chief priests to handle it themselves.  But they push back; they talk of blasphemy; of how they are not permitted to put anyone to death.  Pilate could care less about blasphemy; all he is concerned about is if Jesus is a political threat.  So Pilate asks about claims Jesus is “King of the Jews.”   Jesus answers back “Is this what YOU say—or others?”  Pilate then asks Jesus himself just” what he has done”—after all, it’s His own nation and Chief Priests bringing Him here.  Jesus tells him that his Kingdom is not of this world.  So again, Pilate being only interested in what kind of threat Jesus was, asks again, “So you ARE a king?” 


Interestingly, Jesus’ next answer has been found on the oldest surviving fragment of any Gospel.  It dates from 130 AD and is in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.  Jesus says, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. (John 18:37) 


Pilate, almost bored, says “What is truth?”  Pilate tries to step aside from it all, by declaring he finds no issue to charge Jesus with and decides to hand Him back.  But the crowd has been influenced by the chief priests and now instead of Palm branches, there are shouts first for another prisoner to be released; and then louder shuts that grow to “Crucify Him”!


And this they do.  But before the act of crucifixion, Jesus undergoes beating, mockery, pain, suffering, and degradation.  Two more differences in John’s Gospel appear.  In John, there is no “Simone of Cyrene” to help carry His cross.  Jesus carries it by Himself.  And only in John does Jesus commend the care of His mother to the “disciple that He loved.”  


The passion story is evening is also shadowed and other readings.  In Isaiah, which is also called “a Servant Song” and was probably written during the time of the Babylonian exile, with the Jews who were returning to Judah struggling with how their nation ought to be restored and led.  Some have said it is the nation itself the reading refers to.  But its words are also strongly associated with Jesus’ death.  Then there is Psalm 22.  We cannot hear this Psalm without thinking of Jesus and feeling His angst and also hearing His strong praise of God, his father.  Our Hebrews reading ties together what we have read for the past few Sundays leading up to this day.  That Christ is the exalted Son of God and the High Priest now at God’s right hand.


It is because of Jesus that we CAN approach God boldly knowing God as the one of mercy and grace and whom we fully rely on in dark times.  He has become more accessible to us and more personal.  So we now not only have salvation, but HOPE.  And not only for ourselves, but for others. 


We are called to our lives and should live our lives as a COMMUNITY of believers, not individuals.  A Community of Believers bound together by Christ, commissioned by Him to use our hands and hearts for others, and redeemed by Him through His death.  And His message we need to proclaim proudly and loudly. Amen.


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