Good Friday - by Rev. Paul Porter Leggatt

Good Friday  - by Rev. Paul Porter Leggatt

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who put their trust in the Holy One.

  How does Good Friday reveal Gd’s wisdom – the wisdom that is the foundation upon which we are to live – the wisdom that appears foolish to the eyes of the world?  It is the question that drove the early believers to re-examine the Hebrew Bible and discover in it passages that not only fit the time in which and to which they spoke, but also gave meaning to what happened to Jesus, Gd’s Beloved Child.  

As we reflected last night, Jesus chose to remain faithful to Gd, his Abba/Father.  Jesus chose to carry on his mission of challenging the Jewish authorities, Temple-based power-holders and those fellow Jews who ignored the Covenant’s demands for justice and mercy especially toward the ones who had no wealth, no status, no power –  

Jesus dead:  A crucified Prophet and Holy Man?  A defeated Saviour and Messiah? – how is that wisdom?   On this Friday the powerful won, the fearful leaders trying to hold a fragile balance in a fractious country won – how is that foolish?  

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom . . .    

The wisdom of Gd exposes the folly of power like the authorities in Jerusalem thought they had.  Their refusal to listen to Jesus and to find an alternate way to the way of kingdoms and empires actually led to their nation being wiped out in less than 50 years.    

The wisdom of Gd exposes the folly of power like the Romans believed they had.  The Way of Jesus worked like yeast through the dough of the Empire, so that in four centuries the Christian Faith would become the approved religion of the Empire, for good and for ill.      

“Thy will be done.” (cf Matt 26:39b // Luke 22:42b // Mark 14:36b) Gd sent Jesus to teach and show in his life what trusting Gd and living as a member of Gd’s covenant people means, what it looks like.  Doing so meant calling those who lived for them-selves, or who chose to ignore the demand to love neighbor, stranger and foreigner, to account – an accounting they did not wish for.  So they put a stop to it.  They found a way, bringing Jesus to Pilate on charges of sedition.  Even there, standing in silence, the very words of Jesus could be used to condemn him as long as they were presented as an alternative kingdom on earth that he preached – a challenge to the Roman Empire itself.  What else could Pilate do?    

“Thy will be done.”  The wisdom of Gd brings us to the Cross.  We don’t want to go there.  

To make a contemporary connection:  There is a scene in the Jim Henson film, “Labyrinth” where a teenaged Jennifer Connelly cries, “But it’s not fair!”  And David Bowie, as the deliciously attractive Goblin King says, “Who ever told you life was fair?”  It is an apt illustration of a falsehood most of us hold – that life is fair, especially if you believe, especially if you trust Gd.  But time and time again life is not fair, time and time again we find ourselves shattered, ‘hung out to dry’ on some sort of cross, dying as the illusion or hope we held to shatters.  

And that is what is good about “Good Friday.”  That is where we discover that what looks like utter folly is in truth, wisdom.  When we find ourselves on the cross, we remember Jesus on the cross, and we know that while life may not be fair, Gd is faithful.  That is what Jesus trusted in.  Whenever what we thought was true is shattered, we remember Jesus on the cross as disciples from age to age have, and we know that while life may not be fair, Gd is faithful.  That is what Jesus went to the cross proclaiming.  

The name of the day is probably due to a translation error.  In the Eastern Church it was “Great Friday,” or “Holy Friday.”  In Western Europe it was “Silent Friday,” “High Friday,” “God’s Friday” and “Mourning (or Wailing) Friday.”   I think Wailing Friday really gets it.    

A rabbi told me that when Jewish people in Jesus’ time quote a verse or phrase from Scripture, those listening would know the entire passage – even if the verse or phrase didn’t give the full sense of it.  Scholars say this is true of the Apostle Paul and his use of Scripture in the epistles as well.  

We hear Jesus say, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1)  It tears our hearts.  

But look at the entire Psalm.  ·         It starts out as a cry for salvation. ·         By verse 3 it is proclaiming the saving work of Gd in Israel’s history, ·         by verse 9 the reality of Gd’s care for the person speaking. ·         The psalm goes on with what probably described illness but fits so perfectly what Jesus endured that we can see why early believers found it illuminating.  ·         And by verse 23, the psalmist says,

  You who fear the Lord, praise him!    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!  For he did not despise or abhor    the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me,    but heard when I cried to him  

After two more stanzas praising God the psalms ends with :  

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,    and I shall live for him.  Posterity will serve him;    future generations will be told about the Lord,  and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,    saying that he has done it.  

This is Wailing Friday – they killed Jesus.  They denied Gd hearing and seeing only foolishness, trying to preserve their own kingdom which seemed the wise thing to do. 

But their wisdom was not Gd’s wisdom, and behold, what follows for Jesus reveals true wisdom – Gd is faithful and will not fail us; life is about so much more than kingdoms and power and wealth.  

There it is:  the wisdom of Gd nailed to a cross, faithful to the end, letting go of all the power and authority that was rightfully his in order to be one among us, flesh or our flesh and bone of our bone.  The world finds only foolishness here.  But we encounter the Wisdom of Gd revealed in the life and death of Jesus.  There is the ultimate example of trust in Gd, nailed to a cross. 

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who put their trust in the Holy One.