Good Friday – April 18, 2014

Reading 1: Reading 2:Reading 3:Reading 4:Alternate Reading 1:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12Psalm 22John 18:1-19:42Hebrews 10:16-25Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

By Ignacio Castuera

I have read several of the past years Lectionary Commentaries in Process & Faith for both Good Friday and Easter. I also read Ask Dr. Cobb responding to questions about sacrifice in August of 2013. I strongly urge preachers pondering what to preach on Good Friday, whether in local church settings or “Seven Last Words” community gatherings to read and reflect what these persons have written.

The most important task preachers have during these types of services is that of not falling into the blood and guts sacrifice stories that abound in churches on Good Friday. Dr. Cobb clearly states that the church has been under Anselm’s theory of the Atonement for far too long and progressive preachers, especially those who bother to check these Lectionary commentaries need to speak clearly and declare that the God of Jesus Christ is not some blood thirsty divinity exacting a sacrifice for our sins, one that only Jesus could provide.

The cross cannot be denied on Good Friday, only the misuses of the symbol over the centuries need to be pointed out. This year, given the popularity of the book by Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth it behooves preachers to emphasize that Jesus has not been referred to as the Prince of Peace as an empty gesture. Aslan is mediagenic and charismatic, but he is not correct and his scholarship is not up to standards held by serious students of the Gospels. Jesus attack on the Roman Empire was clear and that might have attracted some Zealots to his movement but Jesus went to the cross as a subversive element who had refused to take arms.

Robert Jewett lectured at Claremont recently and he clearly understands that Jesus’ death by crucifixion came about as a result of strong statements against the Roman Empire and against those forces in priestly Judaism who cooperated with Pilate. But it is a major stretch to suggest that Jesus, like the Zealots, advocated violence. Jewett’s comments will become an article which will appear soon, so stay tuned.

One statement in the Gospels that illumines the death of Jesus is that found in the Gospel of John: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This is followed by you are my friends if you do what I command you. In these difficult days if a Christian does what Jesus commands she/he will also be courting sacrifice on behalf of others. To follow Jesus today might lead many of us to equivalent crosses. That is worth repeating on Good Friday.

Final tip: Carroll E. Simcox quoted Santayana who stated that religion is the love of life in the consciousness of impotence. That is also worth unpacking before congregants.