Both Shepherd and Lamb

April 18, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

Good Friday, April 18, 2014 – Year A

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

If you were here this past Sunday, you heard me explain that these narratives about Jesus’ death are called “The Passion” because the Latin root of the word is passio, which means suffering.

Throughout the Passion narrative from Matthew read on Sunday, we got a sense of the suffering Jesus endured, yet today’s account from John is quite different. In John’s gospel Jesus is the one directing the course of action, from beginning to end, and this is reflected in the Passion story, as well.

In today’s reading, after Judas brought the soldiers and temple police into the garden where Jesus was, instead of Judas kissing Jesus on the cheek, as told in Matthew’s version, here we have Jesus stepping forward on his own. He asks the soldiers who is it they seek, and when they say “Jesus of Nazareth” Jesus responds, without hesitation, “I am he.”

The gospel explains that Jesus steps forward so that no one will be hurt in the process of his arrest – so he won’t lose any of those he has chosen. This exemplifies the act of the Good Shepherd who lays down his own life, if necessary, so the sheep will not be hurt when the wolf comes into the pin.

10172859_10202698945027507_5165203439852299384_nAnother example of this difference is seen with the prayer in the garden. In Matthew, Jesus asks God if this cup might be taken away from him, though ultimately allowing God’s will to be done. Yet, today we hear Jesus assert “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” This rhetorical question, makes it clear that Jesus knows and claims his purpose on earth.

Jesus even carries his own cross in John’s story, not relying on Simon of Cyrene to carry it for him.

And lastly, the scene of Jesus on the cross is dramatically different.

We first see that Jesus is not alone – it says that standing near the foot of the cross was his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene and the beloved disciple were there, too.

Then, seeing his mother and the beloved disciple, Jesus gives over the responsibility of caring for his mother to his close friend. Jesus is in control, even with hands and feet nailed to the cross.

And, instead of hearing the cry “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” the text says, “After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished…” and after receiving the sour wine held up to him, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished’ Then he bowed his head and [handed over] his spirit.”

  • Jesus first gave himself over to the soldiers.
  • He claimed his place on the cross of shame and death, taking willingly the cup that the Father had prepared for him.
  • Then, Jesus handed over his spirit.

And in so doing, Jesus let the light that he had brought into the world, go dark.

On this day, we are re-living that darkness.

His lifeless body is anointed and laying in the tomb.
His mother and friends are weeping.
His disciples are scattered and afraid.

It’s the day of Preparation for the Passover, and here is Jesus – the unblemished, unbroken Lamb that has been sacrificed.

But something has changed.

This is no longer a sacrifice to save only the first born son of each household of Israel. This death has the power to save all people.

The grace provided in that first Passover sacrifice is superseded by the grace provided in the crucifixion of Jesus. This saving love and grace of God is for everyone.

And, in the crucifixion, we see Jesus Christ as both Good Shepherd and Paschal Lamb.

And although in this sacrifice Jesus’ embodied life was finished, we still hear the voice of truth, spoken by the Good Shepherd, imploring his disciples, and us as well, to love one another as he has loved you – and as God loves ALL PEOPLE.

Nova Scotia017Letting those last words from the cross reverberate in our ears:
It is finished.
It is finished.
It is finished.
We remain in darkness.

Weeping for the man who died.
Abandoned by our friend and teacher.

And we wait for the rest of the story…

Resting in the faith of a loving God, and through it, the assurance that it is NOT YET FINISHED.

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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