Good Friday (2022)
In his wonderful little book Orthodoxy, GK Chesterton asserts his own way into Christianity. At the end of chapter 6 he gives his readers a paradox:
The real problem is—Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity?
We need both the lion and the lamb. We need the God that is a lion, to put us in our place. To fear and be cower at our sins. We need the lamb that engenders trust and beckons us towards a new life of sacrificial living. Both of these offices form us.
This really isn’t the case anymore. Instead of being formed by the lion and lamb, we have domesticated both. We defanged the lion and put the lamb in the petting zoo.
Everything in our world has been turned into a platform rather than an event that forms us. I’ve been listening to some interviews about this modern phenomenon, notably Bari Weiss who resigned from post of Op-Ed Editor at the New York Times. In her resignation letter she says, “the paper itself has become a kind of performance space.”
St. Paul would say it like this: They served the creature rather than the creator.
We have done the same. We have elevated our good works just enough that we think Jesus only died for the bad part of me. Not all of me. We have retold the story of Jesus so that He saves us from our bad stuff and then elevates our good stuff.
We sound like Pilate.
If we examine the words of Pilate in John, we see how Pilate is using Jesus as an opportunity to elevate his own authority, he uses the crucifixion as a platform:
So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”
The fascinating thing about the death of Jesus is that it is so important, so formative that here we are two thousand years later still talking about it. Counting on it.
Tonight we touch death and meditate on how that grave institution cannot be prodded or platformed, instead it captures and molds us all whether we like it or not.
The death of Jesus is our death. Death never, NEVER, comes to us on our terms. So, we try to undermine and coerce it.
There is an interaction between Pilate and the Jews where they want to reshape the narrative, the story of death, the reason for it.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
See, we believe that if we tell the story - if we list the reasons for death - then we believe we are in charge. We think we are the lion. However, this lion made in our image is unwilling to lie down. Unwilling to appear weak or truly broken.
Consider then how we tell stories in our lives today. Of course there are social media stories that we get to edit and filter, remove, privatize, and monetize. But there are also ordinary things like decorations.
Right about now I am willing to be that each of us have SOME Easter decorations out. Pastels and baskets with bunnies and chocolates. I doubt any of us have any good Friday decorations out. I’d be surprised if any of us own a good Friday decoration. We’d rather hold onto control because as one of my friends said, ‘death is when you are completely out of control.’ Pastels and their proxies are how we live beyond Good Friday.
Yet, today is the valley of sorrow. Today is the reason why Sunday is sweet. Today creates the mold that is empty until the resurrection. Today is the day that we see the Lord is in control and this is graciously good. He is LORD and as such HE is in control.
The death of Jesus forms us all because death forms us all.
We all die because of sin. More than that Jesus dies because of us not just our sins but the very things that we think are worthy are wounding.
Today is the day that we are mortified at the very thought of death and our stunted attempt to circumvent it.
Between Friday and Sunday, easter decorations are like makeup on a corpse like a supposed good work in an ocean of sin.
Christianity is holding onto the paradox of life in the midst of death. Jesus is both the lion and the lamb. The suffering servant, the one who lives to die.
Tonight we remember that Christians are flourishing among decay.
At the end of this service you will receive a fridge magnet and a small handout with the seven last words of Christ. I want you to consider putting it up at the beginning of lent. Put it on your fridge. That little vessel that we visit whenever we need sustenance for life should remind you of the source of all life. We need to remember all through this season that no matter how hard we try to retell the story of easter, death always stings. We cannot dress up the sting of our sin in our supposed good works.
The paradox of hope and salvation remains. Death has become the penultimate act of our sanctification and glory.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
and of course:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
The paradox of the Christian life is just that. Life is found in the death of Christ and that we too must die.