Good Friday – The all-embracing Love of God
Readings: John 12:20-33, Matthew 27:27-44, Matthew 27:45-54 & John 19:28-30
Preacher – Rev Kevin Kim, Rev Phil Swain & Liesl Homes
A creative and reflective worship service which will focus on the cross of Jesus and the forgiveness, grace and life that we can find through his death. The theme of our service will be ‘The All Embracing Love of God’. The time of worship will be structured around five short bible readings and reflections led by Kevin, Phil and our new student minister Liesl. There will also be reflective songs and a chance to respond and draw close to the cross. The service will be a more quieter, reflective service with some colouring pages for the kids. This reflective Good Friday service will be followed by a time of sharing over Hot Cross Buns.
Reflection 1 – In the Communion service liturgy from Catholic church, there are the line –
By the power of the Holy Spirit he took flesh; as your Son, born of the blessed Virgin,
he lived on earth and went about among us; he opened wide his arms for us on the cross;
he opened wide his arms for us on the cross;
When someone opens their arms to you – S what do you see? What is being expressed? What are you about receive? And how do you respond?
When we imagine Jesus on the cross, his arms are opened wide towards us and our world. Here is love that refuses to keep distance from us.
The image of ‘the all-embracing Love of God’ is well expressed in S v 32 – I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
The expression “lifted up” is a metaphor for crucifixion—a fate Jesus will be experiencing very soon (John 12:23–24). There, Jesus referenced an incident from Numbers 21:4–9. The people of Israel were suffering from a self-inflicted plague, and could only be saved by looking to a bronze serpent held up on a pole.
The “lifting up” of Jesus would be literal— S Christ would be lifted up on a cross and die by crucifixion.
This section of Scripture follows right after the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Some Greeks who were present in the city for the Passover feast were drawn to Jesus and eager to speak with Him. Jesus took the occasion to speak of His impending death and its results.
The bronze snake raised up in the wilderness became a prophetic symbol of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. S As the serpent on Moses’ staff was raised up to offer deliverance and healing, so Jesus would eventually be lifted up on a cross to offer eternal life. The snake was elevated on a pole so that all of Israel could see it and be healed, just as Jesus was lifted up on the cross, so that all might see Him and be drawn to Him for salvation.
I will draw all men to me;
and S this is to be understood not of every individual of human nature; S for all are not drawn to Christ, or enabled to come to him, and believe in him.
and a greater number still, instead of drawing to him in this gracious way and manner, will decide to depart from him.
Jesus was aware that there were Greek Gentiles present who wanted to see Him, we have more confirmation that the “all men” Jesus spoke about in this passage indeed refers to “all races of men”, Rather, He was teaching that not only the Jewish race, but all races of men, would be included in God’s salvation, and Jesus accomplished this salvation at Calvary for all those whom the Father has given to Him.
God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. This is welcome beyond any language of deserving – good or bad.
The cross tells us that nothing we humans can do will ever decrease or increase God’s eternal eagerness to love us. Divine love is made visible here on the cross forever.
So let us draw near to this love. There is somewhere in this separated world where we have no need to keep our distance. This love is offered on this Good Friday and it is beyond all imagining or ant notions of deserving.
He opened wide his arms on the cross.
Reflection 2 – In this reading as the Roman soldiers are mocking Jesus, they are physically so close to Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman soldiers were so close to him at this very significant moment of the human history. But sadly they never seemed to be drawn fully to Jesus. They never seemed to discover something very special from this man from Nazareth.
These soldiers’ training was to kill other men and they were very efficient at their murderous task. Whenever a criminal was condemned to crucifixion, the garrison of soldiers was S first tasked to scourge the victim to a near-death state, before releasing him for the final journey to be crucified.
No one would escape the clutches of these ruthless killers. Torture was their weapon of choice as their pitiless victim could do nothing to fight back or to escape. A garrison of soldiers could number as high as six hundred men trained in the art of war. Once condemned, the helpless object would endure harsh torture before the agony of the cross.
The Roman soldiers poured all their fury and wrath upon Him because Jesus claimed to be a king. And Jesus remained silent in the face of His accusers.
Mocking him was an easy thing to do because they had control of the man from Nazareth and could do as they wished. There would be no punishment for their treatment of Jesus because it was allowed under the harsh rule of the Romans. These soldiers represented the power of the Roman government to execute swift judgment on those who would dare oppose them.
Jesus was crucified and for many in the city of Jerusalem and throughout the Roman Empire was forgotten as another victim of Roman law.
Although the Roman soldiers had opportunities to find something remarkable from this man from Nazareth, they never discovered something special from him. They were not drawn close enough to bring transformation for their lives. Jesus was nothing more than a common criminal to these men who regarded Him with little notice.
In Luke 23, there were two criminals at a place called the Skull. One of them ridiculed Jesus and cursed him, on the other hand, the other criminal discovered something special from Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” One of the criminals was drawn to him and he was able to go to paradise with him.
What about now? Many many people continue to mock Jesus today as an ineffective, weak and powerless story of a man more of myth and legend than fact. The Son of God is not visible on earth as He was before the garrison of Roman soldiers 2000 years ago. S Mocking Jesus did not end with the Romans soldiers killing Jesus on a cross.
It continues today by souls who – like the Roman soldiers – believe they are their own god. Like the soldiers who mocked Jesus, all those who mock Him today will die and stand face to face with the real Jesus. There will be no escape. Judgment will be final and eternal. Will you take the opportunity to be drawn to Jesus and be a friend with him? Will you do in on this Good Friday?
Reflection 5 – Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate cannot understand that Jesus is Truth. No one seems to understand even to this day that God’s new revelation and God’s Good News is not a doctrine or an idea, but a person – a person like any one of us.
So this morning let us focus on the fact that the choice is ours.
The choice is always ours.
Evil is always looking for companions. Evil is always looking for help.
And the choice to side with evil is often attractive.
When Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit in this passion narrative, that is the moment when God’s Passion becomes our Passion.
He gives it to us. He is still giving it to us. The question that resides deep within us on this Good Friday worship is will we accept his spirit?
Will we take God’s Spirit, and make it our own?
Will we set our direction to capture God’s divine wind, breath and spirit, and allow it to direct us and take us to places we have never been to do things we have never done?
The world needs His Spirit.
The world needs your spirit.
You can accept His Spirit which is given for the world,
not just for Christians, not just for believers, but for the whole world, and you can do something beautiful with your life and bear much fruit.
On this Good Friday morning, the World needs you. God needs you. We all need one another.
Our choice must be to accept that spirit of goodness and godliness, the spirit of God’s divine charity, and make it our own.
We must allow God’s Passion to become our Passion. When we do, what looks like a tragic story becomes good – a very good story.
This is why we could call it Good Friday! Amen.