As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The God Twist: The unexpected death, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Good Friday, 18 April, 2014. The Reading was John 18:1-19:42.
You know, I never was one to pay much attention in Synagogue classes. Sure, my mother sent me there, wanting me to get an education, but really, all I ever really wanted to do was to be a fisherman. I loved being out on the water with my dad, and I dreamt of taking over his business. Being out on the water, there was nothing to worry about. I mean, sure, you had to worry about doing the right thing and staying safe, but eventually that just became second nature. Out on the water, there was just you, God, and the fish.
But even though I didn’t pay much attention to class, I had heard of the messiah. He was the one who was going to come and set us free. Now, the Romans had done a lot of good stuff for us (The Roads, the Aqueducts), but we weren’t free. We were God’s chosen people, but under their rule, we were a convenient stop on the highway to Egypt. We were God’s chosen people, but we weren’t free.
But along came this guy, Jesus, and he was like no synagogue class teacher I’d ever heard. This guy spoke about stuff, and he spoke with authority. Like he actually knew what he was talking about. The other guys, they said the words, but they didn’t mean it, they didn’t live it. Jesus, he said “love your neighbour as yourself” and he really did! He said “do not worry about what you will eat or drink” and then made food for thousands out of just a few loaves and fishes. Now, I’m a fisherman, and two fish can barely feed me for lunch, let alone 4 or 5 thousand. He said, “Do not judge”, and went about meeting with and caring for the blind, the deaf, the lepers, and the Samaritans.
I gave up my dream of owning dad’s business, and followed this guy around. 3 years I followed him. Three years! It was wonderful. I saw so much of Israel, we went from Capernaum to Jerusalem, and even out to Nazareth! All the while, Jesus taught us what God wanted us to do. TO love, and to not sin. Now, that was tough, but with Jesus around, we were able to do that! It was tough, but we could do it!
I was certain that this was the guy that I’d heard about in Synagogue class. He was going to be the guy that would come in, and clear out all those Romans. We needed to be free! We needed to worship our own God!
There were big things happening, and those of us that were following him, we knew that things were building up to something really big. I mean, when he came into Jerusalem last, it wasn’t just like the other times, he came in on a Donkey! Now, sure, it wasn’t the triumphal war horse that I was expecting, but I’ve come to know that Jesus didn’t do things the way we expected all the time. But we had a fantastic time praising God and shouting out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” And then, as if all that raucousness wasn’t enough, he went into the temple, and showed them who was boss – God! He tipped over all those money changer’s tables, and the market sellers, and really showed them, and then to show them how to really do it, he went about and cured the blind and the lame – right there in the temple! Like, these were big things that Jesus was doing.
But then something went wrong. I don’t know what it was, but this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. One night, after sharing a Passover meal, we went out into the Garden and Jesus went to pray. Now, Jesus did this a lot, he was always praying. But this time, some people came, some guards from the temple, and they arrested him! They bound him up and took him to the temple! This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! Jesus was supposed to come into Jerusalem, and kick out the Romans, and overturn the rule of the Pharisee’s and teach us how to live. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
The Pharisees and the Scribes, they brought up false charges against Jesus, and brought him to Pilate, the Roman governor of the area. He let the Pharisees do away with him, and had him cruicified. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!
Pilate had him beaten, and presented him to the crowd dressed in a purple robe and a crown of thorns, beaten and bloodied, saying “Here is your king!” He mocked us… and Jesus just let it happen. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!
They took him up to Golgotha, and he couldn’t even carry his own cross. Our messiah, weak, bloodied, beaten – how could he overthrow the Romans now? How were we ever going to be free?
They crucified him, they nailed him to that cross, and even that wasn’t enough for them. They mocked him, challenged him to save himself. They gave him sour wine to drink. Eventually, his body gave up, and he died.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to end!
This wasn’t how it was supposed to end…
Does God truly love us that much that he would live through this heartache and suffering? In this one act, his heart is revealed to us.
Jesus died, because he loved us so much. Jesus died so that we could have a relationship with him. Jesus died, for us, because even though we are wretches, who sin daily, because even though we are enslaved to things such as gossip, slander, alcohol, celebrity, tv, football, things that take us away from God, God wanted to set us free – not from the Romans, but from ourselves.
This cross wasn’t the death that Jesus deserved. It was the death that we deserved. But through this unexpected death, Jesus’ heart for us was revealed to us.
This service doesn’t finish here, because the story doesn’t finish here. We’re going to sing, and during that time, you’re invited to come, and to spend time at the cross.
Stay as long as you feel. Then leave in silence, respectful of those remaining longer, and return on Sunday, for the unexpected return.