Because life is a series of edits

God’s Friday

In Church on April 5, 2007 at 2:00 am

(As mentioned a week ago, I'm giving the homily at Memorial's Good Friday service tomorrow evening (7 p.m.; here's a map). As I've been working on what I'm going to say (and as this is Maundy Thursday), I thought I'd divide my manuscript over the next three days before Easter as an opportunity for folks to consider Christ and the Cross.

About the manuscript: I never "read" sermons, but try to write things out in manuscript form so as to get my thoughts down on paper (I always do better if I can speak from what I've "heard" myself think). My plan is to preach from minimal or no notes, as I always prefer speaking extemperaneously (I think people prefer listening to that more, as well).

Those qualifiers out of the way, here's part one, starting with a quote for the bulletin.)

God's Friday
(Luke 22:39-46)

“The Crucifixion and other historical precedents notwithstanding, many of us still believe that outstanding goodness is a kind of armor, that virtue, seen plain and bare, gives pause to criminality. But perhaps it is the other way around.” Mary McCarthy

Perhaps like some of you, I grew up thinking Good Friday was the day I had to be really, really good. Good Friday was, after all, when Jesus died for my sins, and wouldn’t it add insult to injury after the fact if I sinned more than normal on this particular day? That’s what Lent was all about, too – strengthening my “good” muscles in preparation to pump some serious “good” throughout Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

We even had a pre-Good Friday warm-up in Maundy Thursday, which I always thought of as a short “evening practice” before the big day. I thought that if Jesus was crucified on the cross, and Good Friday was when we observed that redemptive-historical event, then surely I needed to be at my best and worth dying for at least one day out of the year.

You laugh, but you can see how this rationale could make sense; after all, what else is really “good” about Good Friday? Think about it: our Creator – incarnate as human – comes to earth, lives a perfect life, and is unjustly accused by a less than innocent bunch of corrupt government officials, power-hungry religious leaders, and one far-too-easily swayed populous. He is mocked, tortured, and crucified between two true criminals, dies and bears the full brunt of God the Father’s justice and wrath against man for his sin and complete and utter wrecking of all he had created. Honestly, just what is “good” about any of this?

When Pastor Stulac asked me several months ago to speak as part of this Good Friday service, I figured this was my opportunity to get to the bottom of this obvious misnomer. Being the brilliant seminary student/intern I pretend to be, here’s how I would sum it up: Good Friday is Good Friday because Good Friday was God’s Friday.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s clever; a little bit of a word play. Linguistically speaking, our ears like the alliteration, and the philologist in all of us appreciates the fact that the phrase “Good Friday” could clearly (and probably did) come from the phrase “God’s Friday,” just as “goodbye” comes from “God be with you.” “Good Friday” as “God’s Friday” – it works (especially for a homily title to put in a church bulletin).

But reading the passages and examples from Luke 22 that we’ve read so far tonight, it sure doesn’t seem it was really “God’s Friday” at all. Actually, it seems like it was anything BUT God’s Friday. Why? Because everyone involved had an agenda for what the day we have come to know as “Good Friday” would be. For instance, Luke tells us:

  • how the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for an opportunity to kill Jesus (Luke 22:2)
  • how Judas took advantage of the hot betrayal market of the day to sell Jesus out (Luke 22:3-6)
  • how the disciples kick-started their campaigns as to which of them was or might be the greatest (Luke 22:24)
  • how Simon Peter took the opportunity to show off in front of the others with a boisterous, dramatic oath of loyalty to Jesus (Luke 22:33)
  • how the rest of the disciples (probably egged on by Peter’s promise) vowed their allegiance to defend Jesus to the death, so much so that Jesus finally had to rebuke them and tell them “Enough already!” (Luke 22:38)

The point is everybody was an opportunist; everybody had a plan. And this did not stem from merely an “immature jealousy” in the case of the Pharisees; or a “well-intentioned taking of matters into his own hands” in the case of Judas; or a “noble (if naive) declaration of loyalty” in the case of Peter; or an “innocent misunderstanding of greatness and servanthood” in the case of the disciples (he had just washed their feet, for crying out loud, modeling what he was teaching – how could they miss that?).

No, these attitudes of opportunism – and the actions that followed – stemmed from a deep, calculating sin nature whose idols were power, control, being first, and being praised. Everybody had an agenda.

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