Good Friday—30th March, 2018

John 18:1—19:30  

Why? Why did Judas betray him?  Was it after that dinner in Bethany when Mary poured costly perfumed oil over Jesus’ feet, as if preparing him for burial?  What a waste of money, said Judas—worse still a waste of time following Jesus, if he was going to just give up and give in.  Why—why give up now? The people were with him—they’d rolled out the red carpet for him, taking him to be the Messiah?  So why didn’t he act like a king and conquering hero, kick out the oppressors and clean up the corruption?  Here was his chance, it’s what they had been waiting for.  Was his talk of death the last straw, the ultimate disappointment, betraying their hopes of honour and glory? Did Judas hope to force Jesus to use his power by causing a confrontation?   

Why? Why didn’t they get it?  Jesus gave them signs and told them what was coming, including his betrayal.  How much clearer could he have been?  Were they still clinging to the hope he would do something dramatic at the last moment—an unexpected twist, like the surprises at the end of some of his stories?  Were they in denial?  Betray him—who’d do a thing like that?  Jesus knew their courage would fail—that they’d all abandon him and before dawn even Peter would deny him, yet Jesus promised they’d see him again—comforting them in advance, perhaps absolving them before they ran away, so they wouldn’t be paralysed by guilt, but empowered to move forward, carry on.    

Why?  Why was Peter too scared to even admit he was one of the disciples when he had been the first to draw his sword to protect Jesus who told him to put it away?  Perhaps the full horror finally flooded over him after Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and was being interrogated, framed by false witnesses.  Could Peter hear the blows and the insults from the courtyard?  They were out for blood and meant business—would he be next?  

Why?  Why did the crowd turn on Jesus, shouting Hosanna one moment, crying Crucify him the next?  How could he have worn out his welcome so soon —had he been too critical, too clever, too kind?  Who knows the truth?  Did Pilate?  

Why?  Why did Jesus walk right into the trap?  Why didn’t he run when he had the chance—continue his ministry far away from the capital, instead of courting danger?  Why didn’t he sidestep this showdown?  He said his hour had come—the time to do what he came to do, to save others, not himself.     

Why?  Why would God want to accomplish our salvation through the terrible torture, humiliation and horrific death of his Son?  Because I believe in a God of love, I don’t believe God wants anyone to suffer, but unable to stop people hurting themselves and each other through sin, God chose to suffer for us out of love.  It’s not a case of the Father using Jesus as a scapegoat—if the Father and Son are one, as I believe they are, then God too was put on trial, God was slapped about, spat on and shamed, God was abandoned to the worst we humans can dish out to one another, to the worst degradation and cruelty we can manage.  When deeds of power, prophets pleading and perhaps even punishment had all failed, God chose suffering love as the ultimate tool to transform us, the ultimate persuasion to convince us how much God loves us and is prepared to suffer on our behalf and because of us.  Why?  It is God’s nature to love, to forgive, to redeem.  Having exhausted the alternatives, what choice did we give God?  

Why? We each have to answer that for ourselves, but I feel partly responsible because, there have been times I too have betrayed Christ’s trust, forgotten how much he’s helped me, or the values he taught, failed to love others as he asked, lacked the courage to say I know him while others insult him, and I’ve run away—run away from him, or from what he’s called me to be and do.  

Why?  Why did his closest disciples fail so spectacularly? Why did people who waved palm branches and welcomed him, turn against him?  Just as Jesus knew he was about to die, he was sure those who followed him would fail, but it’s precisely because he knew that, he died to save us.  If we can admit the part we’ve played—the times we’ve condemned others unfairly, been swayed by public opinion or allowed ourselves to be stirred up too easily, times we’ve distanced ourselves from someone in trouble, or abandoned them when the going got tough.  If we’re willing to face our shortcomings, then stand at the foot of the cross, accepting what we’ve done, or not done, while accepting the love and forgiveness offered, we too can be transformed—totally transformed.  That’s why Jesus came into the world, to save sinners—that’s why!