Friday, April 19, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
Preacher: Jacob Krueger (seminarian at Wartburg)
For many Jewish people in this world, they are celebrating the Passover meal today, which was also happening when Jesus was arrested and took up his cross where he hung to die. The Passover meal is held to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish slaves from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The many parts of the meal help those who practice the Jewish faith tell the story of Passover.
This Holy Week we hear the capture and crucifixion of Jesus according to John. We’ve come to what seems to be the finally of the race. It is the time when we think that Jesus’ time on earth is over and is done. In some eyes it points to the defeat of Christ and ultimately God. For others it is the abandonment or forsakenness of God to the rest of the world. Ultimately, we’ve seen that we have desires to be something different than who we are called to be.
Once again, in this text we see a society has succumbed to the reality of our nature of using violence to inflict pain and suffering to those without power and privilege to continue holding that status from those who have less. This desire and human brokenness, which is still prevalent today, is seen to extend all the way back to the days when Jesus was alive and ultimately taken into custody to be crucified. It’s also the time where we see those who have power decide the unjust fate of a person. We’ve also, again, seen humanities desire for violence and scapegoating to blame the victim they even use legal murder, i.e. crucifixion, as the means of this violence.
In John’s Gospel, everything has a point and reason. For John, this gospel clearly claims that Jesus has a mission on earth and that mission is to restore the cosmos to God’s self and to redeem humanity through the forgiveness of sins. This takes place when God is completely emptying God’s self for the sake of humanity to the point of death on a cross. This becomes the point of Jesus saying, ‘it is finished’. Jesus has completed his mission of being the Good Shepard and now the lamb of God which those who come after will be for the benefit for the sheep that comes after.
This Gospel text is quite different than the rest of the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is not asking for the cup to be removed from him rather, Jesus fully embraces the mission which God has called Jesus into this world for. Jesus’ way to the cross is honorific. For Jesus this becomes the reality, taking the place of another in a bold and powerful way. This is like the movie….when rather than hurting the children or the beloved wife, so and so steps in to take their place. Here, Jesus is giving himself up for humanity and reminding them of his great love for them.
Just as those who are Jewish are celebrating their Passover meal, Jesus becomes not the Passover lamb, but the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. This means that Jesus becomes the atoning sacrifice for humanity. Jesus ultimately comes to take away our sins and the sins of the world in his death on the cross. Through Jesus’ death on cross, we see God’s great love for the cosmos.
In this great love on the cross, Jesus, the lamb of God, liberates us from our sin. Jesus liberates us from our deep deep desires for violence and for blaming the victim. In the cross Jesus says no more, to the violent and harsh ways of killing human beings for the sake of getting revenge. Jesus says no more, to death that only separate God’s love on the cross from the people of this world. In the cross, Jesus outstretches his arms to the oppressed in this world, and shows us a new way of living for and with those who are treated unjustly.
For some, the cross on which Jesus, the lamb of God, hangs on is deeply liberating. The black community has seen oppression at its height. They have experienced unjust lynching and brutality in this nation for over 243 years. For them, the cross has a much deep meaning. In fact, the cross is seen as a liberating symbol and a liberating act.
For many of us, we have forgotten that. For us it has become a piece of jewelry we wear as a way of showing off who we are. It has become a piece of jewelry where it doesn’t mean much other than to fit into the crowd. It has become a piece of jewelry we wear just because that what we’ve always done. Indeed, for a lot of us including myslelf, it has become meaningless.
In fact, in James Cones book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, he says that those in the black community associate with the cross, because for them, the lynching tree becomes that cross which they bear and hang from. In the suffering in the hands of those who have unjustly killed them, it becomes the way for them to find peace in knowing that the cross is liberating for them. In their hanging form the tree, Christ Jesus, hangs with them also. As they weep, Jesus is weeping with them.
The cross is liberating because in the cross, we see God suffer and continue to pour God’s self out for the sake of humanity all the way to the point of death on a cross. By being made in the image of God, our suffering becomes the suffering of Jesus. In the incarnation, life, and death of Jesus we see the liberating ways in which the oppressed find themselves set free. The cross frees us to bring about change for our neighbors and to advocate for our neighbors who are being treated unjustly. It means that we are called to change our ways of being in the world. In God’s love as the Passover lamb, we are freed to love our neighbors suffering with and for those who have suffered and experienced oppression. Ultimately, God’s reign in the life and death of the incarnation, points to God’s power to defeat the powers that oppose God and brings living water, which is life eternal to all of humanity.