Homily for Good Friday

The Confessions of those who were there at the crucifixion of our Lord

Judas

Everybody knows my name: the greatest traitor of all time, the Betrayer of God Himself. I have no defense to make. My friend, my teacher, the one who chose me for his inner circle, worker of miracles; I sold him to his enemies for a handful of coins. I can honestly say that I never knew him to be cruel to me, or anyone else, for that matter. He was never unjust, unless you count the injustice of his extravagant kindness and generosity to people who didn’t deserve it. He would talk to anybody, women, children, filthy beggars, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans – they were all the same to him. I knew he had it in him to lead our people to victory against the Romans who have taken over our own land, our God-given inheritance. But he squandered his time and money – our time and money – on low-lifes and ne’er-do-wells. He made us a laughingstock in the eyes of the wise and holy, and every day more and more of that pathetic rabble followed us like hungry dogs trailing after the butcher’s cart. I thought I had no choice but to put an end to it, once and for all. The holy men thanked me for my loyalty.

But now, in the darkness after His death, my betrayal is as clear as the dawn. It was my greed, my ignorance, my arrogance, my heartlessness that turned me against Him. He bears no blame. There is no sacrifice sufficient for the enormity of my offense.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Peter

I loved the Teacher from the first day we met, the day he found me mending my father’s nets on the shore of the lake. Mind you, he could be a little crazy sometimes. That day, he sent us back out to fish in the full heat of the noonday sun. The nets were still wet from a long frustrating night of catching absolutely nothing, but there was something about the way he spoke. He was never one to take “no” for an answer. That day was an eye-opener, for sure. We had to yell for James and John to come out and help us or the boat would’ve gone under with that catch of fish. That was the first time we got a glimpse of who he was, but it wasn’t the last. I know in my gut he’s the One, you know? And I thought he was lucky to have me. I was ready to die for him. Or I thought I was. What an utter fool I was and am! When it came right down to it, my courage failed both of us. When I heard the rooster crow on the dawn of that day – the most terrible day of my life – I could hear his voice like he was standing right beside me. I could always talk a good game, everybody knows that. But the Teacher, I didn’t fool him. He knew what I was all along. And now, I am crushed by the weight of my shame.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Pilate

It really wasn’t anything to do with me, except that I’m expected to keep the peace in this backwater part of the Empire. On the face of it, those Jews didn’t have much of a case against that peasant and his band of misfits. But he did seem to be stirring people up – the wrong sort of people, people who might cause some real trouble if they found somebody with some leadership abilities. It was just possible that this Jesus might be a problem after all. It was the first time old Herod and I had found anything that we could agree on.

But this man fills me with an unease I’ve never felt before. Not so much because of what he says; he barely says a word in his own defense. It’s his silence, his eyes, his face – bruised and battered as it was. My wife sent me a message about a dream she had about this man. I don’t usually pay much attention to things like that, though today….

But surely, the matter has been taken out of my hands. His own people are out there, crying out for his blood. I have to do what I have to do. I have no other choice.

But I am filled with an unspeakable dread.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

I never thought that I, Nicodemus, a learned scholar, a good husband and father and grandfather, a respected member of the synagogue, would go sneaking around at night to visit an itinerant Galilean preacher, of all things. But when I heard that man speak, when I saw the works that he was doing, I knew in my heart of hearts that here was a man sent from God. I really believe I couldn’t have kept myself away if I tried. But if I’d come right out and supported him publicly, I’d have been thrown out of the synagogue in disgrace.

When they started talking about getting rid of him: having him arrested, having him killed, even, I tried to put in a good word. I tried to be a voice of reason, a voice of truth, but it did no good. Things just got worse and worse, more and more bitter, until one of his own friends came to us and agreed to hand him over, quietly. What could I have done to stop it then?

But now, everybody knows that we are his supporters, now that Joseph and I have gone to ask for his body so we can give him a decent burial. Now at last, we find the courage to carry the spices and ointments openly, to honor his lifeless body. Now that it’s too late. What good can we do him now? Why couldn’t we find our courage while there was still time? How can we ever be forgiven for failing him when he needed us?

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Pontius Pilate famously asked Jesus: “What is truth?” In the shadow of the Cross, we all find this truth: that none of us are worthy of forgiveness. We all bear some shame, we all carry some deep regret, we are all haunted by some word or action or cowardice for which we have never been able to forgive ourselves. Tonight, on this Good Friday, we join the blessed fellowship of the unforgiveable: the traitor, the braggart, the callous, the coward.

And what we find here is that the meaning of the Cross is Love.

And because He poured out His love on the Cross,

there is no sin too great for Him to forgive us,

there is no shame so terrible that He will reject us,

there is no heart so hard that He cannot break and soften it,

and it is never too late for us to come to Him in faith.

Amen.

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