After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So 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. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” Then 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. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him.
Again and again we have bound you and taken you captive, O Lord, because it's easier, easier than facing the reality of what you ask of us.
Again and again you have been taken captive and your voice silenced.
Again and again you have been dragged out whenever it seems
that quoting your name will justify our attempts to gain what we want at the expense of others.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A 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. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
God, why did you let this happen, why do our greatest hopes seem to flicker out and die?
We search for meaning in life and before we find it, it is gone.
We search for meaning in death but its horrible reality drives us back and we are afraid to look.
God, we shudder at the way this life ended: surrounded by cold brutality, rejected and betrayed by a friend, deprived of justice, and loved by only a frightened few who watched in fear.
Inside we are afraid that this is all there is, a flickering light snuffed out, no meaning, no future, no love. Evil triumphs yet again.
Evil triumphs so often. Yours was one of thousands of deaths. From those times to now thousands die in loneliness and fear, victims of the cruelty and oppression of this world.
Remind us with every death, that there is still so much to be done, before love reigns and fear is driven away.
Since 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. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
Once again we don't want to face up to what we have done.
We quickly seek to clean up the mess, to hide the evidence, to get life normal again.
We want it finished and the body put out of sight.
And yet that broken body, if we would only face it is the evidence of the love we crave and the source of the healing we cry for.
Give us courage to see beyond the blood and the horror.
Give us the hope that in this death we may find our own life.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger... Luke 2:6,7
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. John 19:40
As we have just heard, when he died he was again wrapped up by others - this time in a shroud.
At the beginning of his life and at the end like us all he was naked, vulnerable and completely reliant on others. He could do nothing for himself.
We come into the world like this - exposed - this is how God gives us as a gift to ourselves and to the world. And we go back to God at the end having nothing, owning nothing, hiding behind nothing. This is how we give ourselves as a Gift to God.
Today Good Friday we have heard again how Jesus died. It was a very difficult and cruel death - but it was a good one. And in this Jesus is teaching us how to die.
Why? In order that we may live. And in a time where all the news is of Covid 19 and death tallies and social distancing, this is worth our time to reflect upon.
An old wise monk once said to a group of trainee teachers: "Teach [your students] about death and how to die well, and then they will know about life and how to live well."
Our life is like a piece of Music. It starts off quietly - not in the sense that the baby doesn't cause quite a stir as it enters the world - but in the sense that it has no power and then as time passes and we begin to express ourselves, our lives become more varied and interesting. We learn new skills. We develop talents. We form relationships. And in some form or another, or many forms we begin to exercise power over others as a parent, as a boss or supervisor, as a teacher of the young, as coach or captain of a sports team - and in all these things we find our self expression and much joy.
Life is louder and more exciting in places - and then we peak. Like the music it reaches a crescendo or has many crescendos. After that we begin to have to let things go, as we age things get quieter.
We have to begin letting things go - our sight, our hearing, our walk, our health, our friends and eventually - and all these other examples of letting go have been a rehearsal for this - we have to let go of ourselves. We end as we started. This is how nature does things. It prepares us gently for that day when we have to go back to God as we came from Him - with nothing, completely reliant on Him.
Of course it is not as tidy as all that. It wasn't for Jesus and isn't for many of us. Illness, accidents, rejection in love, even death will come to some of us long before old age and we will struggle. Doubts. Anger. Sadness, Questions. Why is this happening? And to me? What have I done to deserve this? Are all natural reactions.
What we are reminded today is that Jesus has been in that place too. He knows what it feels like. And he showed us what we must do. We can struggle against what life has done to us. And in a sense we must as for example when ill, we must seek healing.
But when we have done all we can then we must place ourselves in God's hands to be lift up and out of it. Otherwise we will sink beneath the waves of darkness and despair.
I have had a number of experiences of accompanying people as they died and seeing others as they prepared to depart this world. For some it is a gentle letting go. For others it is very difficult.
Some of the people who have the worst time were people who had always been in charge. Not in a bad sense. This was their duty - their reason for living, but often I have found these are the ones who find it the hardest to die. Having always been responsible and in charge maybe it was harder to hand over. I don't know. On the other hand people who had simpler lives and always had lived for others without being in control of those others seem to go easier.
What I am saying is we have to start practising dying very early on in life.
When children leave home, when a relationship hasn't worked out,
when a project has failed, when we have been misjudged - In all these things there is nothing we can do to make things better and we are faced with a choice remain angry and resentful, having tantrums that we did not get our own way or gracefully letting go and trusting that God has us in his grasp and will not let us sink beneath what we are now suffering.
Christ himself went through all this in his life - submitting himself to the authority of others - to Mary and Joseph and the authorities of the time. He was misunderstood by his peers; misjudged by the society of the time; endured the terrible emotional pain of rejection; the spiritual pain of feeling his Father had forgotten Him, as well as the physical pain inflicted by his fellow humans - and eventually death - at their hands.
His message to us? There will be times in your life when some if this will happen to you. Keep faith with God. Put your trust in Him. Even though you walk in the valley of darkness He will lead you through it. Jesus has been there before you and triumphed. It will not have the last say over you.
This is why you must all come back Easter Sunday. This is not the end of the story today. The story for us is the Resurrection of Jesus which is our Resurrection also.