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Good Friday Slide

Good Friday Sermonettes
John’s Passion
March 29, 2024

Sermonette 1

A common phrase in our nation and world today is the phrase, “No justice, no peace.” Have you ever stopped to ask what this phrase means, and why it’s become the mantra of many people these days?

The phrase, “No justice, no peace,” is a marketed way of saying that the punishment should fit the crime. It’s a 21st century way of saying, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, life for life,” that unless the punishment be severe, at least as severe as the crime, those who call for punishment – and those who determine something to be a crime using the court of public opinion rather than a court of law – that they will no rest, they will not exhibit peace or goodwill toward anyone. They will exhibit unhinged, violent, extremist actions, and they themselves will commit many clear crimes until the one crime they seek justice for is appeased.

“No justice, no peace.” We would look at Judas and our lesser nature might see what he did by betraying his rabbi, his Lord and we might be tempted to cry out, “No justice, no peace.” We might look at the religious leaders, the teachers of the law, Pharisees and Sanhedrin and conclude that their actions are criminal and cry out, “No justice, no peace.” In fact, this is what Peter tried to do, didn’t he, by unsheathing his sword and attacking Malchus the servant of one of the priests.

But our Lord’s justice is not our justice, and our Lord’s peace is not our peace.

Sermonette 2

For the high priest and the religious leaders, they convinced themselves – or perhaps the devil himself convinced them – that their arrest and trial of the Lord of life was justice. The high priest was jealous of Jesus’ fame and feared that their priesthood was in jeopardy. Why did they fear such a thing? Well, in part, it was because the priesthood was a political priesthood and the Roman authorities had a lot of control over who could and could not be priests, including the high priest. Caiaphas was himself appointed by Valerius Gratus, the Roman governor, and Pontius Pilate allowed him to stay in his position.

Caiaphas was worried that a rebellion led by this zealot named Jesus, and his 12 merry men, would upset the status quo and Pilate would…unappoint him. The priesthood was corrupt; it was not following the law of God regarding the priestly line.

So for the high priest and the religious leaders, they believed their work was just, not because it WAS just but because in their minds, it put the needs of the people and the hope for peace ahead of the truth and ahead of what was right. Jesus was tried a criminal, not because He WAS a criminal, but because the priesthood mafia didn’t want to lose their status, power, and position.

Even so, God’s true justice prevailed.

Sermonette 3

Pilate wanted nothing to do with any of this. He knew how the politics of the time worked and how the Jewish system functioned. The Jews were a thorn in the side of the Roman empire so much so that Rome even granted the Jews special permission regarding religious worship and money exchange that no one else in the great Roman Empire enjoyed.

So, right way, Pilate knew what was going on. The religious leaders were using him because of some religious fight over teachings and practices that he cared little about. Pilate was a Roman pagan, and the religion of the Jews was utterly meaningless to him.

But he also knew that these Jews are not unafraid to cause all sorts of trouble for him and the empire if they aren’t appeased. When they cry, “No justice, no peace,” they mean it, so Pilate knew this Jesus issue would come to a head.

Hoping that the people will come to their senses, he allows them to choose between Jesus and a murderer and criminal named Barabbas. Barabbas was a very bad person, but the people cry, “release Barabbas,” and in doing so they stand contrary to their own holy law and commands.

And Jesus…He says nothing to defend Himself, but one thing He does say stirs Pilate greatly. Jesus speaks of the truth, that He came to bear witness to the truth. And Pilate, a proud citizen of Rome, a nation full of philosophers and many religious beliefs, asks, “What is truth?” Does he ask it in jest, or is Pilate seeking to know something greater than what his Roman education has afforded him…

Sermonette 4

Now we see the beginning of the death of justice. Jesus, the true and only king of the universe, is brought low, crowned with a crown of thorns, draped in a mockingly purple rope, but not before the soldiers secure a whip and flog him. And Roman whips were hardly toys. They were made with leather and the end of the whip was garnished with several sharp objects such as metal or stones so that when the whip struck skin, it didn’t just leave a scar but it ripped into the skin and pulled it from the muscle.

39 was the number because a 40th lash was believed deadly. 39 lashings was the punishment for the worst of criminals not sentenced to death.

Where is justice? Where is this ancient Jewish faithfulness and love of truth and righteousness? Well, where has it ever been? It’s buried deep beneath politics and a love for position and possession. It’s human nature to destroy and mutilate and to use piety as a weapon.

Pilate saw what they were doing, but as they raised their voices more and more, “no justice, no peace, we have no king but Caesar, crucify Him, away with him” Pilate saw himself being backed into a corner.

Why does this Jesus not stand up for Himself and say something…anything…because even a word of explanation would allow him justice, to be set free. But he says not a word.

Sermonette 5

The place of the skull was the place where the worst of criminals go to be executed. The crosses that stood there would typically have insurrectionists, murderers, violent and dangerous people who stood fully opposed to Roman rule. But as Jesus carry His own heavy cross upon His mangled back, we see no violence in Him. The violence and murderous desires are coming from the very religious leaders and easily-swayed crowd who cried out “Crucify Him!” Not from Jesus.

Pilate hates that he had to bend knee to these extremists, to this mafia priesthood, and to express his anger at Jerusalem, he has the words, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” written in several languages and posts it above Jesus’ head atop the cross. The Jews see this and are beside themselves, and demanded he take it down, but he had given into enough of their demands. The sign stays. The soldiers, they perceive this would be an infamous crucifixion, that the story of this man’s suffering and death would ring out for many years to come, so they take Jesus’ only clothing, his purple robe, and play Ebay to see who’d win the opportunity to own the purple robe of the king.

Justice being served. Pilate could rest easy knowing the Jews would no longer cause chaos in Jerusalem, that there’d be at least another day of peace because of this man’s unwarranted death.

Sermonette 6

Jesus, while slowly dying from suffocation as His muscles weaken so he can’t breathe, spends some of His last breaths taking care of his mother by assigning the care of His mother to His beloved disciple John. This is what the man of TRUE justice and TRUE peace does, by showing great honor and respect for His mother and making sure she is well-cared for by his most beloved of disciples. He exhibits compassion, and He understands the important role of parental authority and dignity by showing the world how children should care for their parents and others in authority no matter what.

The soldiers attempt to quench Jesus’ thirst with sour wine…vinegar, the cheapest wine meant for servants and thirsty soldiers. They put it on a sponge so that it’s just enough to wet Jesus’ lips, and it quenched His thirst enough for Him to say, “It is finished.”

What was finished? The work of making just the unjust; the ancient, ancient mystery of salvation revealed to the world by the death of God. The establishment of eternal peace between God and man, not by the insatiable cries of extremists, “No justice, no peace,” but by the death of the Prince of Justice has God made peace with us.

The TRUE cry of the sinner saved by God’s grace through faith is, “His death was not one of justice, but thanks be to God, we now have peace.”

Sermonette 7

They pierce His side. Blood and water flow. For the rationalist who refuses to see the sacraments or the signs, this is just pure science. They struck Jesus and something unlikely happened: blood and water flowed out. It shouldn’t have happened, but it’s a scientific, rationalistic curiosity to consider. Blah, blah, blah.

Why did John report this? Was it merely a fact that he needed to include, or is there something more? Well, of course there’s something more! This is a miraculous sign. First, it shows the world that Jesus is truly dead. No one could survive such a breach which led to internal fluids pouring out. No one can question that this man’s life has left him. No one.

But there’s something more. We see prophecy being fulfilled. No bone is broken – the soldiers didn’t do to Jesus what they typically do to finally end the life of the crucified – and His side is pierced. John says, “I saw it with my own eyes; it happened.” Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecies once more and no one could prevent it.

Some also say that the blood and the water point to the sacramental nature of this crucifixion, that His blood flowed symbolizes the true body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament, and the water symbolizes the saving and redeeming nature of holy Baptism. Perhaps not…but maybe…

Here we see justice dead and laid in a tomb. And all of those who loved Him and followed Him, they thought true justice died that day, and in fact He did. But God’s justice and His peace isn’t subject to death, for in just a few short days, true justice and true peace will be made known to the world when the tomb is found empty, and the Lord of Life appears once more. Amen.