Thursday, March 31, 2005

Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-21; Hebrews 10:1-25; John 18:1-19:37

What is truth?

Pilate’s question sounds profound. But truth is, it was probably a throw away remark, tossed out not as a means of entering into deeper understanding, but, rather, as a means of escaping from what he couldn’t understand.

Jesus had said, For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

But Pilate wasn’t listening. The only truth he knew that day was that if he didn’t do something with Jesus, he would have a riot on his hands, and he would be fired for failing to keep the peace. Pilate would either have to talk some sense into Jesus, who seemed to think he was a king, or wash his hands of the whole thing, give in to the angry crowd that wanted to see their “king” dead. But Jesus wouldn’t give him any straight answers, and Pilate must have thought it ironic that Jesus would bring up the word “truth” when the truth was exactly what Pilate was trying to get out of him. Pilate wasn’t listening, he didn’t understand, he didn’t know how ironic it was that Truth itself was standing right in front of him the whole time.

What is truth?

Truth is, on this day, about 2000 years ago, Jesus died. A rough wooden cross, reserved for criminals and, apparently, kings…this cross bore his broken body until there was no life left in him, and he died. It is finished.

Today is Good Friday, a day when the truth is hard to pin down, even when it is nailed to a cross. Jesus tells his accusers they can learn about him from his followers, at the same time that Peter is telling his accusers he does not know Jesus. What is truth? Jesus is called a king, but no one really means it, and he’s given a crown, but it’s made of thorns. What is truth? Jesus, the one through whom all things were made, dies at the hands of his creation. It is a day of death, of defeat, of hopelessness, and yet we call it Good.

What is truth?

Truth is, on this day, a little more than 2000 years ago, Jesus was conceived. It is nine months to the day before Christmas. On this day, a young girl’s womb, reserved for children and, apparently, kings…this young girl bore his tiny pink body until he was full of life, and he was born. It is begun.

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus died, but by rare chance, today is also the Feast of the Annunciation, the day an angel visited Mary with astonishing news, the day Jesus was conceived. It, too, is a day when the truth is difficult to hold, even when it is contained in its mother’s womb. The one through whom all things were made enters his creation as a tiny, helpless baby boy.

On this unusually Good Friday, death and life, fast and feast, earth and heaven mingle to reveal the profound truth of God’s love for us. What is truth? Truth is, as St. Paul has written, God’s love never ends. God’s love is not made weaker in that tiny, helpless baby, nor is it defeated in the broken man on the cross. Jesus, in his living and in his dying, showed us that God’s love remains love, even when we aren’t listening, even when we don’t understand, even when we don’t return it, even when we hang it on a cross. The beauty, the goodness, of Good Friday is that nothing could keep Jesus from loving us. The ugliness, the brutality, of this day is of our own making.

We know these stories so well – the angel’s visit to Mary, Jesus’ visit to Pilate. We know the characters, we know their lines, we know what happens in the end. We believe these stories are about things that really happened to real people in a real time and place. But truth is, these stories are as much about now as they are about then. As Christians, as members of the body of Christ, it is now we who bear him in this world. Will we nurture the truth of his love and give it space to grow....or will we deny it, betray it, and condemn it to death? We know we are capable of both.

Today we kneel at the foot of the cross to acknowledge how we, like Pilate, have washed our hands of responsibility for love…how we, too, so often give in to a world that asks us to put ourselves before others, even before God. But at the foot of this cross we also acknowledge how we, like Mary, can embrace and enfold and nurture love…how we, as Christ’s body, are called to love and pray for all people…how we, too, have been given a cross to bear, for that is where true love leads in a world that doesn’t always listen.

Truth is, despite the somber mood this day with it is finished still echoing off the bare walls, we know that come Sunday, about 2000 years ago, Jesus rose again. A cold, stone tomb, reserved for dead people, both kings and criminals…this tomb would not bear Jesus any longer, and he rose. It is begun anew.

What is truth?

Truth is, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Amen.

No comments: