This is the brief message I shared at our Good Friday service. Our Bible reading was quite long and spread over six readings. I won't add it here.
Here is a link to a good website for reading passages from the Bible.
Here is the message, enjoy!
So far in our plethora of bible readings, we have heard the story of Jesus journey to his death. The arrest, the questioning, the beatings, the humiliation, his crucifixion. After my message, there will be one more reading where we hear the next step, of his burial. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to hear. Now, my usual method or preparing messages is to work through each passage in a little more detail and see what is happening. If I were to do that today, we would still be here tomorrow night…well, I would be anyway (maybe with the lights turned off, the doors locked and the alarm on). As I sat and reflected on this whole passage, in fact, all of what we can read about Jesus’ life., there is something that is always startlingly apparent. Jesus very rarely did the expected. He rarely responded to the religious elite of his day in ways they had hoped. He rarely did what his disciples thought he would do. He rarely behaved in ways that a Rabbi was “meant” to behave. He always loved in unexpected ways.
This morning, let’s take an all too brief look at what it means to love in unexpected ways…just like Jesus.
Jesus defied all expectations of what he was and who he was. The Israelites expected to see a messiah that would retake their lost nation either by political gain or military force. They expected bells and whistles in all stages of the development of their saviour. What they got was a baby born in a manger in the backwaters of the world. What they got was someone who would live a simple life as a carpenters son until he was around 30. What they got was a bloke who was pretty much a rebel, according to those around him. He defied cultural expectations.
As I sat with this, I began to consider what are the cultural expectations of those who follow Jesus in our current culture. What is it people think we do? How do they consider what we do and why we exist? As I thought about that, I realised that we have a lot of work to do, we are becoming increasingly pushed to the background as irrelevant and closed minded. We are never in the forefront of the media with amazing acts of love and sacrifice. We don’t ever seem to be considered edgy rebels who live out their faith in dramatic ways. We fade into a background of, at best, beige. Or worse than that, as a club of self-centred, negative, hypocritical haters.
As I read about how Jesus died, I cannot see any of those accusations. I cannot see any self-centred negativity. I can’t see anything hypocritical about what Jesus did. He would die for us. And we did not see hate from Jesus. Far from it. Jesus’ love is evident from every page. From how he allowed Judas to approach him, his command of Peter to put his sword away. From his refusal to deny who he was. Every part of the journey from Gethsemane to the Cross not only drips with Jesus’ blood but also his love.
Can you see the disparity between what we have in our time now?
On the one hand, we have Jesus, who would endure so much in the name of love. In the name of reconnecting us with God. In being willing to die for us. Being willing to be the sacrifice that was needed. Being willing to suffer for us all.
On the other hand, we have the world's perception of what his followers are like now.
That needs to change.
No longer can we continue being regarded as we do. We can no longer fail to reflect Jesus in our society. Our society needs us to be like Jesus. Our society needs Jesus.
If Good Friday tells us anything, it tells us about love and sacrifice. Today tells us of a love that runs so deep that it would sacrifice anything for the object of that love.
I believe you can see the heart of a person in their actions. Even a brief overview of what Jesus endured tells us how much he loved. He did allow one of his close friends to betray him. He allowed himself to be bound and beaten. He allowed himself to be questioned in front of many. He did allow himself to be humiliated. He allowed himself to be beaten. He allowed himself to be crucified. We now know that it was by choice he did these things. He chose to express his love for us in this way, the most painful of ways.
You have to ask yourself, what do my actions say about me? Do your actions tell of love for other people?
I’m not suggesting that you need to do the same as Jesus. What I am suggesting though is that our motivation for what we do, needs to be love. Sometimes we do need to sacrifice things in the name of God’s love. Sometimes we have to sacrifice winning an argument. Or even the desire to enter into an argument. Other times we will need to sacrifice our own plans to help someone out or even our own comfort. If you look around you, there are plenty of ways we can express God’s love (and our own love) to other people.
The problem we have is that it may cost us something. That’s the sticking point in our culture. What the cost? We count the cost, don’t we? Not just the financial cost..the cost of our time, our material possessions, the cost of our reputation (well our perceived reputation at the very least). We count the cost to us and not the benefit to the other person. Is that true love? Or do we fulfil the expectations of the culture around us?
What I am calling you to is something radical. Something that goes against what is expected of us. I am calling you to be like Jesus. Do the unexpected. Do the things that the world thinks we don’t do. Show them that we love, unconditionally. Show the world that we forgive, that we don’t judge, that we are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. Let’s be people who re-present Jesus.
Good Friday is a good day to remember what Jesus did for every person on this planet. He chose to die for us all. Some of you here this morning may not really believe that or have doubts. Or have loads of questions. And that’s ok. It really is. You are in good company. Every one of us here today has or does have the same experience. While Jesus died for every single person on this planet, we also have free will and free choice…I mean what’s the point of love if it is not an option. Each of us needs to decide to respond to Jesus’ love. Each one of us needs to believe that what Jesus did changed everything. It gave us an opportunity to be connected to God in ways that sound well…unbelievable. We have the opportunity to experience His presence, sense his love and be amazed by it. I invite everyone here this morning to take that opportunity this morning. Whether for the first time or for the hundredth time. Let’s choose this morning to take up the opportunity to receive God’s love.
After all, Jesus died so we could.