The following is a sermon given on Good Friday, 2010 by Rev. David R.. Froemming.
The cross reveals 1) our violence, (not God’s!) 2) and God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.
An implication of this is that the exclusion of women, or any group for that matter, is rooted in our violence, and are not part of who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ.
John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
We held our palms this past Sunday, as did the crowds that greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem. But historically, these palms were symbols of military victory for the Jewish people. The palms were not some nice gesture on the part of the crowd that day. The crowd hated living under Roman rule, and was filled with hopes of Jesus being their military liberator. The Jewish people would have remembered what was written concerning the Maccabean Revolt, less than 200 years earlier, when the Seleucid Empire’s ruler defiled the temple in Jerusalem, and slaughtered villages of people. A fighter by the name of Judah Maccabees led an armed revolt and defeated the Seleucid soldiers in Jerusalem. In the First Book of Maccabees, chapter 13:51, we find written:
On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the one hundred and seventy-first year, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.
The palms are symbols of violent conflict. The people have totally misunderstood what kind of kingdom that is was Jesus proclaimed. Pilate totally misunderstood Jesus. John 18:33-36 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate 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?” Jesus 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.” And today, one needs to ask the same question – do we understand what kind of kingdom that it was Jesus proclaimed?
It was not a kingdom built upon violence that Jesus proclaimed. The disciples did not understand this. Recall, what happened as the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. John 18:10-11 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?”
Do we understand this? Do we understand that the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is not built upon violence? This is the judgment that John’s Gospel is speaking of when it says, Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. Jesus is speaking of his crucifixion as the revelation that our world is built upon violence.
God’s son came as a loving servant among us, and we nailed him to a tree. We nailed him to a tree – for the entire world to see – our sin exposed – our violent ways captured and told in the gospel.
Like Cain, who killed his brother Able, we are caught in a world of violence and we do not know how to end this cycle of violence. Genesis 4:8-9, Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” We like Cain, try to hide and deny, how we are caught up in the violence of this world.
In his meditation on the cross Martin Luther reminds us that unless we realize that we are totally capable and responsible for the violent ways that nailed Jesus to the cross, we have not grasped the crucifixion. The cross of Jesus has exposed the ways of Cain; the ways of human violence, and our acceptance of its use.
Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
Jesus knew our violent ways, and knew that he would die. Prophets foretold it. For the prophets knew the violence of the people as well. But do we know this? Do we understand that the cross of Jesus has exposed our violence? Or,– like Cain – try to hide, reaching for some images of a warrior god, to hide behind, like many do from the Old testament, in order to justify today’s violence in the world?
Are not we followers of Jesus? Why do we look away from the cross? Have others misdirected us away from the cross and the judgment it has passed on our violent world?
Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
We are now in the judgment – and the biblical word for judgment is (crisis). We are in a crisis of ongoing violence. And the violence is not God’s – the violence and the acceptance of violence springs from us. And now God – with Son on cross – has revealed who we really are. The cross is the truth about us. Without this cross we are like Cain, still in denial; still hiding; still on the run, with no escape.
Our world has heard too little of the cross. Too often we have reduced God to morality lessons. Too often we have wrapped god into our causes to conceal our anger and violence. Jesus died on the cross to save the world from the concealment and denial of its own violence; violence that never brings lasting peace, nor life, but only death. Behold the cross of Jesus, it really is our salvation.
Jesus knows us. Jesus knows us. And yet, and yet, he loves us; he loves us. Jesus loves us, and will not let us live a lie like Cain – doomed to live a life on the run – on the run from our violence; violence that cannot deliver us, nor ever save us. Behold the cross of Jesus, it is our judgment and our salvation. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Amen.