Theme: Good Friday (Hope In Jesus)
Series: Easter 2020
Matthew 26:44-56, Matthew 26:69-75, Matthew, 27:45-50 Matthew 27:55-61
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to our Good Friday service. My name is Rev Phil Swain and I am the minister at Turramurra Uniting Church.
If you tune in any other Sunday, when I start a church service, I am usually excited, joyous and ready to launch into worship with my church family. But Today is different. This morning I am feeling the heaviness of this day, for today we gather to focus on the cross and the death of Jesus our saviour. Today service might be difficult. The story is not pleasant and reminds us of the unpleasant aspects in our lives. It stirs up things – the hurt of betrayal, the pain of injustice, the heartache of grief.
Sometimes we want to rush to Easter Sunday … to the joy and celebration and fun … but let’s not do that. Today, let’s stay in the gloom of the day, let’s sit with the hurt of the story, let’s experience again the deep grief of the disciples – for it is in the midst of the darkness of this day that we discover the amazing love & grace that comes through the cross of Jesus.
Today we are going to have a series of short reflections. Each reflection is based on a portion of the biblical story of Good Friday. There will be opportunities for you to sing, to ponder, to be engaged through ceativity and to respond. Let us journey together to the cross.
We are going to start this journey with the song…
HYMN – When I survey the wondrous cross
Reflection 1 – The World is Broken
Reading: Matthew 26:44-56
44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
I know that reading sounded like it started in the middle of a story … and it did. I just wanted to hint that there was so much happening on this night in the lead up to Jesus arrest.
- Jesus had just shared an emotional Passover meal with his disciples and friends.
- He washed their feet as an intimate act of servanthood and an example to follow.
- He spoke about what was to come, his body would be broken and his blood would be shed.
- And now in the Garden of Gethsemane he is praying, reaching out to the Father … and his disciples can not stay awake to support him.
It was already is an emotional, difficult, draining evening … but things were just about to get a whole lot worse. Jesus was betrayed, had to rebuke his own disciples and then unjustly arrested for a crime he is innocent of. There is so much that happens in this reading that is just … wrong.
But for me, it just highlights the world that we live in. Overall, when we look at around the world that God created there is so much that is beautiful and enriching and life giving. But it is not hard to find things in this world which are just … wrong. The way that our environment is struggling under the weight of human intervention. The way that a virus can come from no-where and change the way we live and interact. The way that some people and business are more interested in making profits than helping people. The world we live in might have beauty and goodness, but there are elements that are broken. This world is not what God intended it to be.
And even in the reading we had, we see elements of Jesus experience of hurt and betrayal and suffering that we might have experienced in our own lives.
We might like Jesus have a “judas” friend … whom we trusted and journeyed with for years, betraying our trust and throwing us under the bus. That is just wrong.
Or Peter … when put in a place of fear and uncertainty, resorting to violence as a way of solving a problem … but violence isn’t an answer, it just makes things more broken.
And Jesus … pointing out the obvious … that if he was such a dangerous criminal, why didn’t they arrest him over the past weeks and months as he taught in the temple? The dodgy-ness of a backroom deal and unjust arrest in the night. It is just wrong.
And then his disciples, his closest supporters and friends … when it really counted, when Jesus needed them the most … they deserted him and fled.
The world we live in is broken. And it is easy to point to other examples as proof that this world … and certain people in it … are wrong. But what about us. Are we are broken too?
Peter … one of Jesus closest and most passionate disciples … confidently declared to Jesus that even if everyone else was to give up on Jesus, Peter would not. Let’s hear Peter’s story in our second bible reading from Matthew…
Reading: Matthew 26:69-75.
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
You see, we can’t talk about the message of Good Friday unless we first begin to have an understanding that we are part of the problem that has led to this broken world. No-one is perfect and even within our best intentions and desire to be good and to follow in the way of Jesus … we all have moments when we fall short.
Call it what you want … sin, poor choices, the mess we find ourselves in … whatever we call it, it causes a brokenness in our connection with God, it causes a barrier in our relationship with God. And as we have been looking at over Lent … it is this personal relationship that God so deeply wants us with.
And so we want to be close to God but are being restricted by this barrier, this brokenness. And we look to God and cry out, “There must be something that you can do”.
The Good News is that there was something God could do, and something that God did do. As Colossians 1:21 tells us…
At one time we were far away from God … separated from God … because of the things we did and thought, but now, by means of the physical death of Jesus … but now because of what Jesus did on the cross … we are made God’s friends and are brought holy, pure and faultless into God’s presence.
If you are feeling that there is a barrier between you and God this morning … if there is brokenness that needs God’s help to address … I invite you to draw close to the cross and receive God’s love, mercy and help this morning as we sing the next song…
Song: Lead me to the Cross
Reflection 3 – Christ is Broken
Reading: Matthew 27:45-50
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
If there are kids watching this morning … I apologise for this next bit … because it is not nice. The Good Friday story is not a nice story because we read how Jesus was broken for us.
Just before our reading … from verse 24, we read that the crowd was all calling for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate after washing his hands of all responsibility hands Jesus over to the Romans soldiers to be killed. But before they do that, they make Jesus suffer. They stripped Jesus, mocked him by putting a purple robe on his back, pushed a crown of thorns on his head then spat on him and struck him with a staff over and over again. They physically broke Jesus.
And then in the reading we had, Jesus is on the cross … his disciples had fled … and now he cries out to God the Father … where are you? Why have you abandoned me too? Jesus was emotionally broken too.
And yet in his brokenness, Jesus could see the big picture.
He could see that in our brokenness, we were separated from God by the things that we have thought and done.
Jesus knew the barriers that separate us from God
– that is why on the cross he cried, “Father forgive them”
Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Jesus cried out to God, “why have you abandoned me” with the knowledge that because of the cross, we will never have to say that.
I cannot look at the cross and not get emotional that Jesus did all this for me. I grieve that Jesus had to die so that I might live.
But at the same time, I cannot look at the cross without a sense of deep thankfulness and gratitude.
Jesus said, “It is finished”
Death had come.
Jesus, God in human flesh, has died.
(blow out candle).
Let us mourn with Mary.
Let us grieve as the disciples grieved.
Let us sit in the darkness of this moment.
Song: Behold the Lamb
Reflection 4 – How do we find hope when all is lost, broken and dark?
Reading: Matthew 27:55-61.
55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
Normally a good Friday service would finish at this point …
Jesus has died. We have blown the candle out. But I think that there is something in the next part of Matthew 27 which can speak to us today … the experience of the women – Mary, Mary and co. These women were followers of Jesus and had travelled with Jesus on many of his journeys. It is also believed that they were the financial providers of his ministry too.
Unlike the men disciples who had fled, these women were there at Jesus’ death … watching from a distance. They would have seen Jesus’ suffering and their hearts would have been broken when Jesus died. And now they were sitting opposite the tomb when Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus and saw the big stone rolled in place.
I can’t even begin to imagine what these women were feeling. The sadness, emptiness and confusion. The sense of loss would have been overwhelming. For these women sitting in the garden – the big stone being rolled in front of the tomb was symbolic of the boulder that just smashed their hopes and dreams. These women would have been grieving.
Last week I was reading an article that was suggesting in this COVID-19 era we find ourselves in, that most of us, most of the world … is grieving. We feel a sense of loss of the life that we had, we grieve over what we had and over what we are now missing out of because of these social restrictions.
What are you grieving at the moment? Of course, we grieve over the people who are suffering or dying because of this virus. We grieve over the people who have lost work or have lost opportunities because of the resulting restrictions. We grieve over what the front-line workers in our hospitals etc are going through. My heart breaks for these people.
But there would also be personal grief that we are feeling too. I am feeling for my daughter Megan who is turning 18 next Thursday and cannot celebrate with her friends and the sadness and grief that is bring to her. I grieve that my good friend’s daughter got married two weeks ago and he nor his wife got to attend the wedding. I grieve that I don’t get to be you – my church family – in our church this Easter. These things break my heart … so maybe, maybe I do have a glimpse of what those women were feeling. I feel like a boulder has smash into the life that I knew and now it is not the same.
Not only is this world is broken, that Jesus was broken … my heart is broken. How do we find hope in this dark place we find ourselves in? How did the women find hope as they sat in the garden looking at a huge rock that covered the tomb of their friend and saviour who had died? How do we find hope when everything is broken?
There is part of me that just wants to sit in this moment. This moment of brokenness and grief … because this is the place that the women have been.
Let’s just pause … acknowledge the grief and loss that we are feeling. I can’t say that God can take it away or change things, but I know that God is here.
As we sit in the brokenness – I invite Eunice to pray.
Prayers for Others
Wrap up (Phil)
I am not sure if this service has been very hopeful … we have acknowledged that our world is broken, that we are broken, and that like the women looking at the tomb – we are feeling this sense of loss and grief. It feels this Good Friday service has been more brokenness than hope.
Maybe I can finish on this point. There was one more thing that was broken on Good Friday that I haven’t mentioned … one thing that I skipped over in the bible readings in Matthew 27 … and it is worth going back and reading.
Matthew 27:51 but I will start reading from verse 50 – the verse when Jesus died. 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
This curtain in the temple seperated the people from the Holies of Holies … the place where they believe that God was. This curtain was about 10 metres high, 20 meters wide and was around 8 cms thick. It is estiamted to weigh about 5 tonnes and it took 300 men to put it into place. This curtain would have been bigger and heavier than the stone rolled infront of Jesus tomb … and yet and the moment of his death it was torn in two.
The symbolism here is unmistakeable. In that moment of grief and brokenness and loss of hope … God breaks something else … the symbolic barrier that seperates us from God. The moment that Jesus died, God declares … there is nothing that will ever separate us again – from my presence, from my love … there is nothing that will ever separate us from God.
Yes, we might be feeling grief and sitting broken at the foot of the cross … but please hear me … even in your brokenness … there is nothing … nothing … in all of creation that can ever separate us, ever again, from God’s love which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let’s hold onto this hope as we await Sunday.
Song: Man of Sorrows
The service has concluded, but your time of reflection can go on. If you wish chat, join our zoom morning tea (BYO hot cross buns). If you want to just sit and reflect, or have some prayer, or talk with God about your relationship, then this time is yours for as long as you need.
If you would like to talk to me … give me a call or shoot me an email during the week.
But for now, a blessing …
May the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Strengthen you and sustain you through the next two days
Until we meet again. Amen.