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Expo Preaching
Life in Jesus Name
Good Friday Meditations on the Crucifixion from John 18 & 19: Betrayal; Truth; Priorities

This is the outline of a service of meditation on Good Friday 2021. Hymns have been omitted from this outline.

Sentence of Scripture: "Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But 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." (Isa 53:4-5 NRSV)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray, as we come to worship you and to meditate on the saving work of your beloved son, Jesus Christ, that our minds might be lifted above the worries of this world, to focus on you and you alone; fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might understand the height and depth and breadth of Christ’s love for us. In your name we pray. Amen.

Reading: John 18:1-27

Reflection: Betrayal! It’s a terrible word, isn’t it? It implies the breaking of a relationship of trust or even love; the sort of thing that’s so hard to recover from. I wonder which is worse, to be the betrayer or the betrayed. To feel the guilt of it or to feel the disappointment at those you trusted: to feel that you might never trust them again. But Jesus wasn’t just betrayed. He was betrayed over and over again. First by one of his own followers; betrayed by a kiss! John’s version doesn’t go into the details but Luke’s gospel gives us a feeling of Jesus’ pain: “Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’” Even though he knew beforehand what was going to happen, the pain was still there, made worse by it coming in the form of what should be a sign of love.  

Then came Peter’s betrayal; Peter, the leader, the strong one. The one who had offered to lay down his life for Jesus. The one the rest looked up to. Yet when the chips were down, when the reality of what Jesus had foretold became clear, even a young girl could frighten him into denying he knew Jesus. Perhaps that was the most bitter betrayal of all.

You can probably imagine the shame that Peter felt, because you’ve done it yourself: denied Jesus when the temptation became too much for you; closed your mind to the quiet voice inside that says ‘No, be strong, keep away from those things that Jesus said not to do.’

Thirdly there was the betrayal by the Jewish leaders. Jesus had come as God’s promised Messiah, the saviour of his people. The leaders of the people, the ones who knew their Scriptures, should have been rejoicing that God’s promise was being fulfilled at last. Yet rather than welcome him, the leaders of Israel had opposed him, determined that he needed to be got rid of, put to death. Clearly they didn’t want to accept his rightful rule over them. He upset their way of life, their position in the community; he threatened their religious practices. No, it was better that one man die for the sake of the people than that the whole nation perish.

We’re going to be led in prayer now then we’ll have a time of silence as we hear a short piece from Handel’s Messiah. If you wish to you can move to the reflection space while the music is playing but please return to your place when the band begins playing the next song.

Prayer:       

Interlude:  “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.                    Handel’s ‘Messiah’

Reading: John 18:28-19:16a

 

Reflection: Truth! What is truth? Was it a real question on Pilate’s part or just a deflection, an excuse, a classic politician’s ploy to avoid what was becoming an embarrassing debate? Was Pilate one of those people who are so tainted by their life in politics that they’ve become too cynical to believe anyone? Or was he one of those who come close to discovering the truth about Jesus, but then just at the critical moment, turn away, afraid to go further in case they have to change something in their lives.

Jesus told his disciples on the night before his crucifixion, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” Though Pilate didn’t realise it, this man who stood before him was truth in the flesh. He was the one who’d come to provide a way for all people to come to God; to discover the truth about themselves, about the universe, and the truth about their maker.

Yet one of the obvious things about his trial was that truth was hard to find. The Jewish leaders couldn’t find anything in his life to accuse him of, so they manufactured a charge: that he’d claimed to be their king in opposition to Caesar. Pilate recognised his innocence, yet had him flogged and finally sentenced to death. The crowd gave in to the incitement of their leaders and called for Barabbas to be spared, an infamous bandit, rather than Jesus, claiming to have no king but the emperor.

Yet there are glimpses of truth: Jesus was the promised King of the Jews; Pilate recognises his innocence; Jesus explains that he’s only there because it was God’s will that he should die; the crowd admits that God’s rule over them has been forfeited.

Truth is still an issue for us. Paul tells us in Eph 5: “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light-- 9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” In Phil 4:8 he says: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Despite what our world may think, truth matters. Despite what the world says we can’t just fabricate a truth for ourselves; because the truth is found beyond ourselves, in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Well, we’re going to be led in prayer now then we’ll spend some time in silence thinking about how truth, or the lack of it, plays a part in our lives. Again please return to your seats when the band begins playing.

Prayer: 

Silence

Reading: John 19:17-42

Reflection: Priorities.

They say it’s in moments of crisis that we discover what our greatest priorities are. For Pilate it was to appear just. So if Jesus was to be put to death for usurping the Emperor’s crown, the inscription would read, “the King of the Jews.”

For the soldiers it was the property of the victim: in this case his clothes, and especially his tunic. It was far too valuable to cut up, so they cast lots for it, not realising they were fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 22.

For the Jews, the Sabbath was the priority. Forget the fact that they’d put to death one who claimed to be their Messiah, indeed who claimed to be the Son of God. We mustn’t have a dead body hanging on the cross on this most sacred of Sabbaths. Forget the possibility that this might indeed be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Just make sure the religious rules are kept.

For Jesus, though, the priorities are different. As he looks down from the cross he sees his grieving mother there, standing beside the beloved disciple, presumably John. And he says to her “Woman, here is your son.” Then he says to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” Even in his final moments, in the agony of the cross, his love goes out to those who are close to him. But of course that isn’t his greatest priority. His greatest priority is the thing he’s come to earth for, his saving work on the cross. He’s come to this moment with full knowledge of what it entails. On the previous evening he’d asked God that this cup might pass from him; but then he’d added, “Nevertheless your will not mine be done”. His only desire is to do the Father’s will. So as the day draws to its close, Jesus cries out, knowing that his work is done, “I am thirsty.” Then, soon after, he says “It is finished” and gives up his spirit.

Finally, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, risk their reputation among the Jews, by asking to take Jesus’ body and prepare it for burial. Their devotion to Jesus, you see, changes their priorities. They’re now willing to risk all for his sake.

So what are your priorities this Good Friday? Are they to follow Jesus Christ at all cost? To take up your cross and follow him? To love others the way he did, even at the risk of your own life or comfort? Even to the point of continuing to care for others in the midst of or at the risk of your own suffering? The cost may be great, but how can we compare it to the price Jesus paid.

Silence

Prayer: Lord Jesus, who on that first Good Friday stretched out your hands on the hard wood of a cross so that all people might be brought within their saving embrace, draw us to yourself, that we being bound to you as faithful servants, may take up our cross daily and follow you.

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