a sermon for beholding and abiding

Good Friday 2018

John 18:1-19:42

-Mike Busbey

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Good Friday. Growing up I often wondered what was Good about this Friday. After all, today is the day that Jesus is crucified. In the dramatic reading we witnessed this evening, we heard a resounding “Crucify Him!” We heard time after time, the world’s response to Jesus: we do not know you, we do not understand your teaching, you need to watch your mouth, you are a criminal, we are afraid, and you must die. You must die, Jesus, not because the world thinks you truly are the King of the Judeans, you must die because we believe that you are not. Nothing seems “Good” about this Friday. And at the end of the denials, accusations, verbal and physical abuse, Jesus still comes before us dignified, carrying his own cross to his death.

It is only in the moments of his crucifixion that we hear of the women and the disciple whom Jesus loved are present in the passion narrative. Furthermore, it is important to note that in the Gospel of John it is the first time we hear of Jesus’ mother, Mary, being with him since the beginning of his public ministry when he turned water into wine at the wedding celebration. Jesus, hung upon the cross, now looks at Mary to say “Woman, behold, your son”.

Just as anyone who has heard these words throughout the centuries, we are encouraged to experience the profound depth of these four words: “Woman, behold, your son”.

For these four words speak into us the volumes of the ministry of Jesus up to this point, a ministry that is full of truth, of life, of love. Jesus has been teaching the disciples of what it means to be in relationship to one another, to be the one who washes the feet of another, of what it means that God’s presence is with us, is abiding in us and we in another, just as God abides in Jesus. What Jesus is asking his mother and for us to do is to behold, to look, at the entirety of his ministry in this moment.

However as the religious and Roman authorities question this ministry and its validity so have we at times. We will experience ourselves at the foot of the cross later this evening in same closeness as the women and the disciple whom Jesus loved and we might feel Peter’s words hammer home: “I am not” when asked whether he is a disciple of Jesus. We might ask ourselves, this ministry of living in relationship with the other, a way of truth and life, is why Jesus is crucified, is it not?

If we take our full selves with us this evening to the proximity of the cross, we might ask how an unjust legal system and police forces continue to murder African-American males, including Stephon Clark? Or how xenophobia continues to sow distrust, anger, hate amongst God’s creation? Or how a sibling look can another sibling and say: you do not belong because of your sexuality.

Jesus’ statement to his mother hangs in the air. It is at once a remembrance of all that Jesus’ ministry is: truth, life, and love….and at the same time a condemnation of the injustice experienced by Jesus and those who suffer today.

Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash

Jesus then turns to the disciple whom he loved and said “Behold, your mother”. On this day, the one in which the religious authorities, the Roman authorities, all who oppress and even Satan, hope to claim victory, Jesus speaks these words to the disciple and to us: “Behold, your mother”. Jesus’ words are not only relational in the sense of wanting to make sure his mother was taken care of after his death, but also in that we are now given the ministry of Jesus. Jesus’ teachings do not die with him that day on the cross, for those who witness to the truth, to the life, and to the love of Jesus will continue the ministry that Jesus has completed. On this day, when Jesus willingly carries his own cross to his crucifixion, Jesus knows that death will not have the last word this evening. Jesus is in control of this moment and this moment in time echoes to us now to acknowledge the suffering that takes place at our own hands and the systems we live in.

That the unjust legal system and police brutality will not have the last word, xenophobia will not drive us apart, and when I look my sibling I will see a reflection of God’s own beauty. The ministry of Jesus continues after the cross as we hear, “Behold, your mother”.

Our Apostle’s Creed states: I believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, he descended to the dead. We all know what comes next, but this evening, as we come close to the cross, it is not necessary to say those words.  Because if we are to listen to the words of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your son” and to the disciple whom Jesus loved “Behold, your mother” then we are to live in the teachings of Jesus, and the hope that is to come. Today is Good Friday, let us not forget it.

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