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This day we hear from Isaiah, Hebrews, and the Gospel of John. In this Good Friday gospel reading, may we remember focusing our worship on Christ. As we walk the path with Jesus on Maundy Thursday, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation.
On this holiest of Christian observances, Jesus’ death is front and center. John offers a blow-by-blow account of the betrayal by Judas, the trial, sentencing, rejection by the crowd, crucifixion, and burial. Although we know the real ending comes with Jesus’ resurrection, it is important that as Christians we approach the events of the day with the solemnity and seriousness that it deserves.
This text reminds us, and provides an opportunity to remind the people of God, that as long as we hold fast to God, God empowers us to deal with every circumstance of our lives. Regardless of the loss we have suffered, whether of loved ones who have died, or much-needed employment, or the company of friends and family, or even the sense of who we are because of the changes that have been forced upon us, we are not powerless. God gives us power to face every circumstance. Jesus, the all-powerful God in human flesh, is our model.
"16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them."
Readings and Psalm
This fourth and final “Servant Song” in the book of Isaiah (see also Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-7) is so often quoted and alluded to, especially within Christian discussions about Jesus’ death on the cross. Some verses in Isaiah 40-66 clearly refer to the remnants of Judah and Israel as “my servant” (Isaiah 41:8-9; 44:1-2; 21; 49:3), suggesting that the community of survivors have undergone excruciating suffering on behalf of the world—and this hermeneutical potential forms the core of the Jewish interpretive tradition on these texts. Perhaps especially in the mainline Church in the United States, we can find another way to read the Suffering Servant poems today. As we meditate on the horrific abuse and state sanctioned murder of Jesus on Good Friday, may we recognize his image in the victims we try so hard to ignore today, and may we—like the speakers of Isaiah 53:4-6—recognize our own culpability and be filled with a passion for God’s mission to “bring good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18-19).
Psalm 22 is a prayer of complaint that, perhaps more than any psalm, serves as a link between the Old Testament and the story of Jesus’ passion. Psalm 22 has “an intensity and a comprehensiveness” that is almost unequaled among psalms of this type.2 The psalm has two main parts: (1) a prayer for help in verses 1-21a; and (2) a song of praise in verses 21b-31. Not only does the psalmist cry out to God with unparalleled expressions of pain and loss (verse 1), but the writer also expresses hope in something close akin to resurrection (verses 29-30). Thus, Psalm 22 is appropriate for the hope that accompanies Jesus’ passion as well as the grief. It anticipates a vision of God who holds the believer even after death that will only be expressed fully centuries later.
The Epistle to the Hebrews explores the meaning of Jesus’ death through multiple lenses. The writer recognizes that no one-way of conveying the meaning is fully adequate. The interplay of perspectives is what gives depth. In this passage from Hebrews the lenses are drawn mainly from the Old Testament, which gives a deep resonance to the writer’s language. The lens of covenant construes the crucifixion in terms of Israel’s relationship with God. Hebrews brings together the themes of covenant and atonement by declaring that the promised new covenant, like the old one, is enacted in tangible form—now through the death of Jesus. Hebrews announces that Jesus’ offering of himself—in the flesh—opens the door and removes the barrier to encountering God in a tangible, transformative way.
Jesus, innocent of any wrong-doing, carrying out his mandate of seeking justice for all people, is betrayed into the hands of an establishment that cares little for those on the lower levels or on the fringes of society. One can well imagine the furor of the crowd that called for Jesus’ crucifixion. It does not require much imagination to put before the congregation the danger that exists in allowing oneself to be swayed by rhetoric that calls for the destruction of any person, place, or thing, or when one is caught in the grip of unchecked emotion sparked by the rejection of civility and personal responsibility.Jesus knows that the cross is his destiny. He knows that as Son of God he has the omnipotence of the divine. Yet he chooses not to exercise his divine power in the face of human injustice.
Compiled by Deacon in Waiting Stephen.
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Meeting ID: 920 44