Sermon for Good Friday 2015: The Stranger

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on…

Billy Joel

When was the last time that you were absolutely truthful on a resume without trying to hide anything about your work personality?

For instance, I would bet that the fact that you get up to go to the bathroom to vomit before meetings isn’t at the top of the list in your professional profile. I’m also betting that no employer would even care to know how much time you spend on your phone while punching the clock, because it would only drive them to an early grave. To me, that is the issue at hand in this pericope. The Gospel extract is almost two chapters long as we walk the scene, hour by hour, spending time with all of the people who would hide their faces forever, even Jesus.

It is an epic fail, a series of unfortunate events, and anything else you can cook up linguistically for the mental picture of clusterfuck. I am not certain that when Jesus knew the hour had come, this is how it would go down… because seriously. It’s not one thing that happened. It was a series of really poor decisions on all counts.

Let’s start with Peter.

Peter is known as “the Rock.” He is the foundation of the Catholic church, and is rumored to actually be buried under the Vatican. He was born in Bethsaida, but later moved to Capernaum, both ancient cities on the banks of Lake Kinneret, in the Bible known as the Sea of Galilea. He wasn’t wealthy by any means, but he (along with James and John) were making it okay. They had their fishing business when Jesus showed up. The reason he was willing to drop everything and follow Jesus was not that Jesus convinced him in a five-minute infomercial. He’d already heard of Jesus through Andrew, who’d gone to hear John the Baptist speak first. The fisherman did not discover Jesus so much as hear about him and realize that he was every bit the Messiah that John claimed him to be.

All of the Disciples were working class joes, so they kind of chose Peter as the de facto spokesman. Maybe he was a great orator… maybe he was just the smartest out of a broken box of crayons. No one can be sure, but the fact is clear. If the Disciples were a team, Peter was the captain. This is because Peter had several experiences that led him to become the first to proclaim Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

  • Peter was there when Jesus healed the daughter of Jairus, the words “talitha cumi” on his lips- Aramaic for “little maid, arise.”
  • It was Peter that became impetuous to a fault and demanded that he be able to walk to Jesus on the waves, looking away and sinking due to his unbelief.
  • No amount of pain or torture could stop him from preaching the Light of Christ, and he is credited for bringing peace between Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.
  • Jesus prophesied that Peter would die a martyr’s death, rumored to have been fulfilled during Nero’s reign of terror.

Can we agree that though Peter was one of the original Christian badasses, he’s also the one that when asked if he was a follower of Christ during the Passion, he said no not one, but THREE TIMES. When Jesus asked him about it, he immediately went into his little boy voice of shame. He was trying to hide what he’d done wrong, not knowing that Jesus’ love was big enough to forgive him. How he did not know that is beyond me… so I don’t think that this was about Jesus at all. I think this was about Peter’s inability to express his shame, because it was so deep-seeded.

The Sanhedrin, or the Jewish legislative body, tried by all counts to act in a legal, righteous manner… but turned toward darkness when they realized that putting Jesus on trial for raising Lazarus was not going to lead to the desired result. Jesus wouldn’t die unless they put some work into it, and frankly, they were tired of his pissant attempts to take over. It’s not that he was ACTUALLY trying to take over, it’s that the Sanhedrin saw it that way. The only way to take immediate action was to hand him over to Rome and hope they had better sense than the Jews that followed Jesus in the first place.

Pontius Pilate knew that Barrabas was a terrorist that deserved to die, but knowingly washed his hands of Jesus because it was what the crowd wanted.

Everyone in this God-forsaken mess had culpability. Everyone had sides they chose not to reveal that would have saved Jesus’ life, but didn’t.

How do we participate in that song and dance daily? How are we guilty of bad things happening because of our own inattentiveness to others’ negative motivations? How are we guilty of living sins that beget more sins instead of love that begets more love? When have we turned toward darkness in our shame?

Silently, we drape the cross in black, and let us think upon these things. The table has been stripped down, bare…

as we are asked to strike our own tables down to make room for Easter. Easter isn’t here yet. We’re ending in darkness for reflection. Forgiveness will come.

Just not today.


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