Good morning, it is a privilege and a pleasure to be here with you this morning.
Peace be with you.
Good Friday morning is always one of those mornings in the Christian calendar when we pause to consider more seriously the implications of attempting to live a faith-filled life.
And not a passive faith-filled life.
But rather, an active, in your face, rebellious kind of faith-filled life.
When, out of a deep deep faith, a person looks at the world around them and says enough is enough, – things need to change.
And when we gather on Good Friday – we gather to remember the very real cost of standing up and speaking out on behalf of other people in God’s name.
the invisible ones, and those silenced out of fear or hopelessness.
And so this morning, we insert ourselves into this crucifixion scene.
We may not be many in terms of the population, but we are sincere – that’s why we are here. And even though 2000 years has passed, we can, through the power of imagination, join this small but poignant scene in John’s gospel where we find 6 very different kinds of players:
A heartless and brutal Roman Governor whose name was Pilate
Chief priests of the temple who are not named but we know who they are because we have met people just like them.
Some Roman soldiers – the men doing the crucifying
Jesus – the object of mockery and torture and physical and psychological abuse
2 unknown criminals destined to be known yet unknown for ever.
Some Jewish onlookers
Jesus’s mother and Aunt
and three close and faithful disciples – Mary, Mary and John
All very different people and all there for very different reasons.
Interesting, how Jesus, even on the cross demonstrates his special gift for drawing to himself people who were very different.
Just like us today, we come from different personal backgrounds, different experiences of life, and we find ourselves coming to this place today from different homes and suburbs and out of very different traditions.
And through the great vision of the 100 year old modern ecumenical movement we can stand or rather sit here at the foot of this cross believing that our differences are something that need to be respected and cherished, and seen as a positive and not a negative. That somehow we are deeply enriched by what makes us different.
Its hard to imagine that we could return to a former time when one tradition might vilify another. Or be unconcerned about what happens to other members of the wider christian community. Too much crucifixion was done in the name of Jesus.
That has been a positive journey for over a 100 years. We have learned much and are better for it.
But on our horizon, is a new and even more challenging adventure.
One that invites us to see God at work not only in our own christian traditions but in the different faith traditions of other cultures and countries – and at work in other views of the world; recognising that in the main, religious affiliation is very much an accident of birth. If I had been born in Mumbai there’s every chance i would have been raised as a Hindu. Or if i had been born in Bangkok, i’d likely be a buddhist. This is the new frontier where love of love is going to be truly tested.
But what has this got to do with Good Friday and all the different people standing around the scene of crucifixion.
Well, one thing that strikes me is the difference in the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the others.
Pilate, believed in the gods of the roman world and could not really care one iota whether one jewish man called Jesus lived or died. If Jesus had been Roman he might have felt a little different. But he wasn’t so. Pilate only cared about law and order. As long as stability was restored and the threat of rebellion brutally suppressed, he was satisfied.
The chief priests – they shared Jesus’s religion but did not at all like the things Jesus was saying about them and the temple. They wanted him dead. He was a major threat to their wealth and their power and authority.
The jewish onlookers. We know very little about them. Were they just typical of those who are somehow drawn to the prospect of seeing someone die. Or were they some of those who greeted him with Joy just a few days earlier and wanted to still be seen as interested but afraid of the roman army. Are they us?
The 2 criminals being crucified were most likely Jewish, and probably weren’t thieves which is better translated as insurgents. Rome did not crucify robbers. They used crucifixion as a way of sending a political message. Mess with Rome and you will die. They are not there to provide Jesus with company – they are there to remind the Jews of Jerusalem of the swift and violent power of Rome.
His Mother, and his aunt and the two other Mary’s are there with John.
I think we can imagine why they are there – to be with Jesus and to be with his mother. Dying can be a very lonely experience.
She was there at the start – fleeing with him as a refugee to Egypt when he was just a child. Doing want any refugee would do to protect their children.
introducing him to the temple and the faith of his community, watching him wander the streets of rural Galilee talking about inclusion and healing and wholeness – a young man who wanted to change the world – indeed a brave new world built upon the principles of compassion and mercy and justice.
And she is with him at the end.
But its the soldiers I want to focus upon for just a few minutes.
What a story teller John is.
Here, within the scene of profound tragedy and sadness.
A most poignant moment in history.
And into the set, john writes the scene with a bunch of soldiers gambling over a fine piece of cloth.
This is no casual incidental moment.
This is John’s way of reminding all of us and indeed each of us.
That its not difference that matters.
It is indifference that really matters.
Let me repeat that: its not difference that matters.
It’s indifference that really matters.
These soldiers are representative of humanity.
They’re just doing a job.
Indeed, they symbolise human kind’s capacity for apathy.
For blunt, crucifying indifference.
They illustrate clearly, just how much more value is placed upon a piece of expensive clothe than is placed upon a human life.
As 3 people hang on crosses suffering a humiliating and disgraceful death, some soldiers have a game of dice.
Not unlike events of this week, where tampering with a cricket ball generates more passion and anger than the image of refugees living limbo-lives behind wire fences or 1000’s trying to escape from Syria.
Or young aboriginal men still being over-represented in the nations prison system.
Clearly, if you want to incur the Prime minister’s wrath tamper with a cricket ball.
Its indifference that really matters, and we need to resist its corrosive effects. Before too many more innocent people have to suffer the humiliation and mockery of being crucified just to keep the peace.
You know, if people of faith, all faiths, and people of good will, don’t stand up and speak out for mercy, compassion and justice in God’s name and in the name of decency – then who will.
This crucifixion is not just some divine mechanism to enable the world to experience redemption.
It is a window into what happens when people of faith look the other way, and become to afraid to speak out in case they lose government funding, or privilege or prestige and influence, or status. Or most importantly power.
Followers of the Way of Jesus, If we can’t examine this scene and see within it all the signs of what is happening in our world at the moment, then we too have become blind.
So, as we leave this place and ponder upon this story and its sequel on Easter Sunday, may we find the courage to rediscover the kind of faith that says:
Its not difference that matters, it’s indifference that matters.