A sermon, based on Isaiah 52.13-53.12 and John 18.1-19.42 (especially John 19.30: “It is finished!”), preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Good Friday, March 30, 2018
On this Good Friday, we contemplate again the death of Jesus. We read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah who speaks of an unnamed, unidentified servant of God who, in suffering greatly, gravely on behalf of the people for the sake of their sins, is physically marred, disfigured, unrecognizable.
It is no surprise that the earliest followers of Jesus, our religious forebears, seized upon this prophecy, perceiving that it was fulfilled in the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Jesus is God’s Servant, who, for the sake of our sins, in the language of Isaiah, “was despised and rejected…a man of suffering, acquainted with infirmity…(bearing) our infirmities…wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.” And, through his suffering redeeming us, for “upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”
However, even with a cursory observation of our life in this world, we, by the necessity of honesty, must make sorrowful note that there is no end to suffering whether as the unconscious fate of natural calamity or, especially, at the willful hands of human evil.
Therefore, throughout two millennia since the death of Jesus unto this day and, sorrowfully with little doubt, tomorrow, there has been, there is, and there will be suffering servants of God; innocent women and men and children who bear the burden of the crosses of anguish fashioned by the hands of those who know not or, even knowing, obey not the law of God’s unconditional love and justice.
Therefore, if there be any good news this day, any truth that makes this Friday Good, then let it be this. Today, we are reminded that God so loves the world to reconcile us through the death of Jesus. And Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross as the last victim, declaring, “It is finished.” His life, yes, but not only that, also the need for any more sacrifice of anyone else.
The only reason sacrifice still happens is because this world that God so loves and the worldly-minded whom, yes, God also loves have refused to embrace this lesson of the cross of Jesus, and, in that refusal, continue to seek out victims upon whom to inflict suffering.
Therefore, it is our work, we who believe in God, we who are saved by Jesus, we who are empowered by God’s Spirit to continue God’s work of reconciliation by making no more – or by standing by and allowing any more – suffering servants.