Located in South Tampa and witnessing to the love of God for over 90 years. Committed to a neighborhood presence, worldwide outreach and a deep heritage of Christian faith.

Good Friday Meditation by Rev. David Bonnema

Luke 22:39-53 Reflection: 

There are two things that we should consider over the beginning of this story. The first is that Jesus does not want this. Jesus does not want the suffering that he anticipates will come. Jesus does not want a slow, cruel death on a cross. Jesus does not want this.

And he prays to God to take the cup away from him- to take the path of suffering that is before him away. Jesus prays so hard that his sweat become like drops of blood. Jesus is distressed and is pleading with God for another way.

“Yet not my will, but yours be done.” These were the words that Jesus prayed to God. In the middle of his anguish and fear, “not my will, but yours be done.”

Not long before his disciples asked Jesus how to pray and he told them to pray for God’s will to be done. Here we see Jesus living that out.

And so he has the cup of suffering in front of him, and he commits to drinking it.

2. The second thing that we should consider is that Jesus’ disciples were ready to fight for him. If Jesus had allowed them to, his men would have fought and probably could have won- averting Jesus’ arrest, at least for awhile.

But if Jesus allowed such violence, it would have completely contradicted one of the central messages that he came to preach- love your neighbor, as yourself. Love even your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus was the prince of peace, and he shows this by bringing healing, and not violence.

It is easier to act by force. It is easier to take out your sword and fight. Then you have control. Then you have power.

But this is not the type of power that Jesus was interested in. And so he says, “No more of this!”

No more! to a world that is predicated on violence. No more! to a fight first mentality. No more of this…

I wonder- in a world that still seeks power through force, in what ways can we share Jesus’ words of “No more?” Perhaps by adopting Jesus’ own view of power, a power that came from washing one another’s feet, of supporting servant leadership, of remarking that the first will be last and the last will be first.

To Jesus, this was real power.

Luke 23:26-43 Reflection:

The leaders of Jesus’ people watch as he is nailed to a cross, and then they feel free to heap insults onto a dying man. “If he is the chosen one of God, as he has said on so many occasions, why does he not call out to God now in order to be saved?! Perhaps his sense of chosenness was…misunderstood.”

The Jews heap insults from one side, and the Roman soldiers jump in from the other. “I thought he said he was king! If he was king, surely he could give the command and have himself saved! Perhaps he was just another false king…now exposed before the Roman empire.”

What would your response be to such insults? How would you respond to such disregard?

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Forgiveness…is central to Jesus’ message.

They put Jesus on a cross, and he is surrounded by two common criminals. There is no dignity in this death.

To make matters worse, one of the men is taking out all of his pain and fear and putting that back on Jesus. “Aren’t you the Messiah?! Save yourself, and us.” But Jesus is not a get out of jail free card. That is not the type of Messiah that Jesus is.

The other man sees things differently. He knows that his judgment is fair. He hangs on a cross as a punishment for his crimes. But this Jesus, this man who hangs beside him, is innocent of any crime. Jesus has done nothing wrong.

There is no sense in his death. There is no justice in Jesus’ crucifixion.

This man who we know little about recognizes before Jesus’ own disciples that there is something more to Jesus. That perhaps death will not be the end.

And he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

This is not the sort of question you ask someone who is dying beside you. To the casual observer, Jesus’ kingdom is done. His followers have abandoned him, his people have condemned him, and he hangs on a tree, waiting to die.

This man sees more. This man sees that somehow, in some way, death will not be the end for Jesus. And that perhaps, just maybe, his true kingdom is yet to come.

Jesus replies, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Sermon (including reflection on Luke 23:44-49)

Crucifixion was a powerful symbol in Roman culture. When the U.S. executes a criminal, it does so in a way that is not cruel or unusual. When Rome executed a criminal, it did so in the most horrific and painful way possible. Crucifixion was meant to be a deterrent to criminal behavior by showing just how painful a death they could make you suffer.

Why was Jesus killed?

The Jewish people arrested him because Jesus consistently lead crowds of people away from the traditional models of Jewish worship- the Temple and Torah- and replaced these with loyalty to himself. They believed Jesus was a false prophet, leading Israel astray.

Jesus’ death- both by the Jewish authorities and the Roman government, was a symbol of what happens when you do not stay in your lane.

What they found, very unexpectedly, is that Jesus’ death became a very different symbol.

Jesus’ death became a symbol of his self-sacrificial love for his creation- allowing himself to suffer and take the absolute worst that they had to offer without retribution.

And when this actually happens, when Jesus breathes his last, do you know what the crowds reaction is? The people who showed up for the ‘spectacle’ of this public death, leave ‘beating their chests.’ They got what they came for, a gruesome death, but they leave unfulfilled because at some point the insanity of putting an innocent man to death catches up with them.

The crowd goes back to their homes mourning what they just experienced. The Roman soldier who is guarding the body and very well could have been the one heaping insults early on, sees Jesus die, and ends up praising God. “Certainly this man was innocent” he says.

Tonight, we are like the crowd of women who followed Jesus from Galilee, who watched all of these events up to this point and now watch from a distance as Jesus dies. The crowd leaves, the Romans leave, but the women stay to watch…and contemplate how an innocent man could suffer so tremendously.

We too, have watchd the events unfold as we read Luke’s account. We watch the horror, the injustice, and we do not have answers. And we’re not supposed to have answers. Because on this night, 2,000 years ago, people mourned. It was a day of tragedy at an unjust death.

And so we remember, we contemplate, we mourn that 2,000 years ago we are told that Jesus, after being on the cross about six hours, cried out in a loud voice “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”

Having said this, he breathed his last.

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