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Jesus Loves You - Sermon, Good Friday
April 11, 2020, 6:07 PM

The sheer sadness of Good Friday leaves us without words.  After all, what words can we put together to figure out why Jesus died?  Can we explain the reasons behind Jesus’ crucifixion?  Is it possible to figure out how much pain Jesus experienced?  How can we know anything, much less speak truthfully, about the death of the one who was all good and all love?

The sheer sadness of this year’s observance of Good Friday leaves us with even fewer words.  As I write this reflection, about 90,000 people around the world, including 15,000 Americans, have died in the pandemic.  What words can we put together to understand such a remarkable loss of life?  Can we explain the reasons?  How can we know anything, much less speak truthfully, in the midst of such sadness and death?

I could quote academics and scholars.  I went to seminary and I own the books.  I can research Good Friday like I researched Hamlet in high school.  But words fail on days like today.  On days like today, when violence wins, and hope fails, and love loses, there are not enough words. 

Instead of long words thrown together in long sentences, I am going walk us through a meditation.  Try to envision yourself in the story as I read it.  If you feel comfortable, you might want to close your eyes, moving beyond the words and moving into a new experience of Jesus’ passion.

Your experience begins as you see Jesus praying in the Garden.  Jesus stands up and faces a detachment of soldiers.  He seems so calm, even in the face of tension.  In the commotion that follows Judas’ kiss of betrayal, you feel anger rising within you.  You lash out at the nearest person, sword drawn, and cut off the servant’s ear. 

You look at the pain on the servant’s face and feel ashamed.  Your action is not one of love.  Cutting off the servant’s ear is contrary to all you have learned from Jesus.  Your memory cuts back to the previous night when Jesus humbled himself and washed your feet for the sake of love.  Your feet are barely dried from yesterday when you strike out in violence. 

Yet, as Jesus walks away with the soldiers, he looks back at you with forgiveness in his eyes.  And you know Jesus loves you.

You follow Jesus to the High Priest’s courtyard and try to blend in with the rest of the onlookers.  Suddenly, a woman turns and asks you, “Do you know Jesus?”  You deny Jesus.  Three times you deny Christ and, as you hear the cock crowing, you weep.  Jesus said you would deny him three times and you argued with him, assuring Jesus of your enduring faith.  You feel ashamed.  Jesus’ life has been marked by complete devotion to God and God’s people.  Today, when it seems to matter most, you deny knowing Jesus.

Yet, as Jesus is lead away to the Governor’s headquarters, you catch his eye – just for a moment.  Jesus looks at you with forgiveness and you know Jesus loves you. 

Finding yourself in the courtyard outside the Governor’s headquarters, you hear the conversation between Pilate and Jesus.  How frustrated you feel!  Why won’t Jesus stand up for himself?  But then you are reminded of the ways you haven’t stood up for Jesus and those Jesus loves: people who are poor, people who are hurt, people who are sick, people who are treated unjustly . . .

Yet, as Jesus stands with crown of thorns on his head and a purple cloak around his shoulders, you catch his eye – just for a moment.  Jesus looks at you with forgiveness and you know Jesus loves you.

Finding yourself on the road to Golgotha, you feel your heart sinking each time Jesus falls to the ground.  You can only imagine the pain Jesus experiences as each nail is driven into his wrists and his feet.  Your heart breaks with each passing hour as Jesus hangs on the cross.  Sensing that his life is coming to an end, Jesus asks you to care for his mother – you, a sinner who wants nothing more than to blend into the crowd.

Yet, as Jesus’ breath gradually becomes ragged, you catch his eye – just for a moment.  Jesus looks at you with forgiveness and you know Jesus loves you.

You don’t want to lose Jesus’ gaze of forgiveness but his eyes slowly close.  As you watch Jesus’ last breath escape his body, you crane your head to catch his eye one last time, but he has died.  And you know Jesus loves you.  Amen. 

 
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