2 Apr 2021 • General news
Isaiah 52. 13-end of 53
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lSee, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
?so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals?
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
amb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Hebrews 10. 16-25
The Holy Spirit testifies to us, for after saying, 16‘This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds’,17he also adds,
‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
John 18. 1-end of 19
After they had eaten the supper, 1Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ 5They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.‘ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.‘ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,‘ they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?' And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ 8Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ 9This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ 10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. 11Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
12So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
15Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
19Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ 30They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ 31Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.‘ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ 32(This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. 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.’ 38Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
After he had said this, he went out to the Jewish leaders again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 40They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.
1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ 7The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’
8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ 11Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’
13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ 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. 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ 22Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’25And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.‘ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.‘ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35(He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ 37And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
38After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
Reflection for Good Friday, 2 April 2021:
I want to begin this reflection by sharing with you a poem called “Christmas is Really for the Children”, by Steve Turner.Now, you may be wondering why a poem with Christmas in the title should be relevant on Good Friday – but you will see once you have read it:
|Christmas Is Really For The Children By Steve Turner|
|Christmas is really |
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.
Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
|of body snatching. |
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
Or they'd do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there's any connection.
Every time I read that poem, I am reminded that there are some people who like their Christianity a little, shall we say, ‘fluffy’.When I was a child, and I’m sure some of you will find this familiar, I was introduced to the concept of ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ – a concept summed up, I think, by images like this:
For most people, this is a familiar image of Jesus, the sort of thing that adorns children’s Bibles the world over.It shows us a fluffy, friendly Jesus, caring for all the little animals – a Disney Jesus who looks for all the world like he’s about to burst into song!
For many people, this is the image of Jesus that they want – sanitised, cutesy and nice.This is the Jesus we used to sing about in Primary school:
“Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light,
Like a little candle, burning in the night.
In this world of darkness, we must shine:
You in your small corner, and I in mine.”
See? It’s nice.I learned that song in 1976.This is the Jesus that most of us get introduced to when we are children. This is the Jesus who makes us love the Christmas story, with its wise men, and its funny shepherds, and its angels in their nightgowns and haloes. Christmas is nice. Christmas is friendly. And some people want the whole of their experience of Christ to be like that, which is why we find images like this one by Velazquez:
The crucified Christ – there’s even blood on it! But it’s still nice. It’s still cutesy. It’s a nice, shallow, accessible image of Jesus for people who really don’t want to come to grips with the actual events of Good Friday. I’m not going to go into the details of the story – you can find it for yourself in Matthew chapter 27, Mark chapter 15, Luke chapter 23 and John chapter 19.Jesus goes to a truly awful death –crucifixion is one of the most terrible forms of execution humans have ever come up with – and he goes to it after three sham trials and having been beaten almost to death.
The crucifixion of Jesus is, to put it bluntly, not nice.
St Augustine of Hippo, who converted to Christianity from paganism in 386AD, and who went on to become one of the most influential thinkers in the early church, believed that it was the duty of every Christian to dive beneath the surface of the faith, to ask deep and difficult questions of themselves, of others and of God himself. Images like the ones I’ve shown you are great as a starter into the faith, as an introduction for the young or the inexperienced – but they should not be the end of our journey. They certainly shouldn’t be the end of our relationship with the crucified Jesus. Otherwise, we might as well be like the people Steve Turner describes in his poem, thinking about rabbits, chickens, snowdrops and chocolate, and waiting for the messy inconvenience of Easter to be over so we can get back to thinking about Christmas carols and baby Jesus and angels in nightgowns.
Easter serves as a reminder to us that the Christian faith is not fluffy. It is not nice. We follow the teachings of a God who put himself through agony, who lived a life of deprivation and then threw that life away in the worst way imaginable at the time, all for our sake. Jesus may be gentle, he may be meek and mild, or he may not – but he is for us, and the Good Friday story shows us exactly how he is for us, exactly how valuable we are to God, exactly what he was prepared to go through on our behalf – when Jesus goes to the cross, he may not know exactly what the outcome will be, but his faith in God, and in his own mission, is absolute. Jesus dares pain, blood, brutality and death in the sure faith that God is working through all those things to bring about something better.
As we continue to face an uncertain time, a time when we are still not in church, still not able to meet face to face, still not able to celebrate the command Jesus gave us the night before he died, is our faith as absolute as the faith of Jesus? Most likely not. None of us are him, after all. But we can be mindful that God is working through the pain and brutality and death that many of us are facing to bring about something better. And because of that, we, like Jesus, should not shy away from the pain and the hardship and the death. We must face up to the fact that life is not always fluffy, and adjust our image of Jesus accordingly.
With that in mind, I will leave you with one more image of Jesus on the cross – and I make no apology for it. We are not fluffy-bunny people. We are not chickens and snowdrops and chocolate egg people. Those things have their place, but we are the people of the God who suffered, the people for whom God in the person of Jesus put himself through this agony, to show us that we can face our own pain with faith. Christmas is nice, and it is good to celebrate the beginning – but celebrating Easter is necessary too. The light is always accompanied by the dark. But, as Easter also reminds us, the dark is not the end of the story – the light will overcome.