Saturday, 15 April 2017

Where is the Cross?

From a Reflective Sermon Preached on Good Friday 2017 at Easton Methodist Church, Portland.  (The full text of the Bible Reading from 
John 19:1-13 can be found below)

Where is the cross?

The cross is on a hill and Jesus is dying on it.  We have heard that in our reading.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him

Why was that cross there?

1 Corinthians 15:3 tells us For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and 1 Peter 1 tells us  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Today we remember he died for our sin, he dies because of our sin and he died for us.

It was a most awesome moment when "God with us" is, in a way that we do not and cannot understand, hung on a cross to die.  It is no wonder that some other religions and individuals can make no sense of Christianity.  That the all powerful Creator of the World is killed by those he has created.   But God's ways are not our ways,  Isaiah 55 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Where is the cross?  On a hill where Jesus dies because of and for our sin.

Where is the cross?
Crosses surround Jesus.
There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  There were two thieves crucified either side.

There may have been others that day and certainly we know that there were many others crucified by the Romans at various points.  It was both punishment and deterrent by the Occupying forces. 

On this day when we remember the unique suffering of Christ which was spiritual, physical, emotional and mental, we might through the crosses of thieves and others remember the suffering of the world in so many ways. Whether it is the terrorist bomb, or the starving child, or the victims of chemical warfare, or the natural disaster (Isn’t it odd the way we call it that – God’s world was created good so maybe it is the Unnatural Disaster), the local accident where someone is badly injured or killed, or the family in debt, or the neighbour who has had bad news, or the child who is afraid, people are crucified daily on the cross of life.

Where is the cross?  Jesus had his cross but he had them around him and so do we.  They are everywhere – they just aren’t always made of wood.

As we see the suffering of Christ and remember the suffering of the world perhaps we can resolve once again to respond to the suffering of the world as God’s agents of change and signs of the Kingdom.

Where is the cross?
Within us
Within ourselves where our sinful nature is crucified.

St Paul in Galatians 2 said I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. And then in Romans 6
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

We recognise that the cross has to make a difference within us and our lives. Our sin needs to be crucified on it so we might live to Christ.   Does that cross make a difference within us?

Where is the cross?
On a hill with Jesus pinned on dying for the world to reconcile us with God.

Where is the cross? 
All around us as we see people suffering in the world and reach out with Christ’s compassion to make a difference.

Where is the cross?
Within us – as we allow the awesome action of Christ to become something that affects us personally and as we offering ourselves for sin to be dealt with just as Christ offered himself for us.

Today is the day of the Cross.  It reminds us of the reality of life and the reality of life through death.

John 19:1-37
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’
But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’
The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’
11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’
‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.
‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareththe king of the jews20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews”, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’
22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
‘They divided my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’37 and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.