Welcome to the Church
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and that whomsoever believes in him shall not die, but have eternal life.
Those words from John’s gospel are often quoted at Christmas, but they are even more poignant as we gather with Christians throughout the world for the annual remembrance of the death of our Lord and Saviour.
While we remember with sorrow the events of that first Good Friday, and while we acknowledge our own guilt, we remember that Good Friday is so called because of the blessings conferred on all people through the sacrifice of Jesus.
Let us sing that story now:
Hymn: 350 There is a green hill far away
Lord God our heavenly Father,
we praise and adore you;
we celebrate your mighty power and your love.
You have guided and preserved us in all our ways;
you are worthy of all praise and honour and love.
Your glory is beyond all thought;
you are alpha and omega, the first and the last;
you are beyond all letters and all words,
beyond all that we can say or think.
Accept our praise and adoration, we pray,
through the merits of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
First Reading: John 18:1-14
After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Prayer of confession
As we look back to the death of Christ on the cross, we are aware of our own sinful natures. On the road to Calvary, the priests and the teachers of the law sought conspired against him to preserve their power, the crowds turned on him, the disciples deserted him, Pilate washed his hands of him, the soldiers mocked him and beat him, his closest follower denied him.
The old song asks if we were there when they crucified the Lord – and in a way we all were. We remember the times when we sought to preserve our own status and power, the times when we have taken the easiest option instead of the right one, the times we didn’t stand up or speak out from those in need.
We ask that you grant us the grace to be aware of our own sins,
to keep from judging the sins of others,
and that by your mercy, you will cleanse us and change us,
So that we may be a light to a darkened world,
And we pray this in the name of Jesus, who died for us
The Lord’s prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
Second Reading: John 18:33-38
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.
Hymn: 222 Rock of Ages
Third Reading: John 19:14-18, 28-30
Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Hymn: 341 My song is love unknown
Sermon: It is finished
Last Sunday, we celebrated Palm Sunday, and in our reading from Mark’s gospel we heard the crowds laid down their cloaks and waved branches so that Jesus could triumphantly enter Jerusalem.
The crowds cried “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
This was the high point of Jesus’ ministry – crowds were recognising Jesus as the messiah and he was completing his journey to Jerusalem.
Jesus’ ministry had started small. He’d been baptised by his cousin John in the Jordan, been tested in the wilderness for forty days, and then returned and called his first disciples. More and more people came to hear Jesus, the number of his followers grew, he preached the good news of the kingdom of God drawing near.
But even as his ministry grew, there was opposition. From the Pharisees and the Saducees and scribes and the teachers of the law.
And there’s a saying that a week is a long time in politics… and certainly this week was a long one for Jesus. The first century equivalent of opinion polls would have shown Jesus’ approval rating plummeting.
The crowds that had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem dissipated. The crowds that had cheered were no more.
Mark tells us Jesus’ first stop in Jerusalem had been the temple. And there he drove out those who were selling things.
And Jesus walked in the temple courts where he was challenged by the chief priests and the teachers and the elders. They tried to catch Jesus out, they tried to entrap him – the question about paying taxes to Caesar, and the terribly hypothetical question about a woman who had been widowed by seven brothers in turn, and the question about which was the most important commandment.
Big things were happening. Each day in Jerusalem, Jesus would be at the temple, each night he would return to Bethany. The mood was getting darker and darker.
By Thursday night, there were only the twelve left.
And Thursday night was the Passover – which demanded a special meal. A symbolic meal. During dinner, Jesus told the disciples it would be his last meal.
He took the bread, and broke it, he took the cup and shared it.
He told the disciples that one of them would betray him.
They were saddened, and Mark tells of the disciples saying one by one to Jesus “Surely , not I?”
Jesus told them that they would all fall away.
But Peter, impetuous Peter, pledged his complete devotion – “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:29)
But Jesus answered “Truly I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me”
During the meal, Judas slipped away, and as we heard in our first reading from John’s gospel the remaining disciples went with Jesus to Gethsemane.
From the crowds of last Sunday, it was now just a few going into the Garden with Jesus.
Jesus had often been in the garden with his disciples; so Judas knew it too. Verse 3 from our reading from John’s gospel tells us that Judas went there with a detachment of soldiers and police from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They came with lanterns, torches and weapons.
Jesus, we read, knew and understood what was happening, and he stepped forward, likely to protect his followers from violence.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked
“Jesus of Nazareth”, they said.
“I am he” Jesus answered, and they fell to the ground.
Which is a bit odd, if you think about it… they’re after Jesus, and Jesus says “Here I am” and they fall over.
Except that they didn’t fall over, as such, but John tells us they fell to the ground. They bowed. They were in awe.
Because Jesus didn’t say “Here I am” he said “I am he”. “I am” is how God refers to himself – remember way back in Exodus, when Moses encounters the burning bush, God says to him “I am the God of your father.”
So Jesus saying “I am he” was either so blasphemous (to Jewish ears) or so forceful, that they were awed and they fell to the ground.
In verse 8, Jesus offers himself to those who came to arrest him “...if you are looking for me, let these men go”.
I think it’s fair to say they would have come looking for a fight, but Jesus didn’t give them one… when Peter tried to start a fight, Jesus told him to stop.
So Jesus was arrested, and then he was alone.
The first stop for Jesus after his arrest was to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphus, the high priest. I don’t know whether you noticed it, but in verse 14 of chapter 18, John gives us this wonderful aside, when he says “Caiaphus was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people”.
We can appreciate that as a wonderful truth; but as we discussed at bible study a couple of weeks ago, that’s probably not what Caiaphus had in mind.”
After going before Annas, and after going before Caiaphus, John tells us that Jesus ended up before Pilate. He was handed over by his own people – the Jews – to the Romans. And Pilate is confused – he’s been handed this prisoner, but it’s not clear what Jesus had done. And we have this strange interview between Pilate and Jesus. Pilate who was effectively all powerful, and Jesus who was powerless.
At the beginning of Chapter 19, John tells us that Pilate had Jesus flogged.
Pilate told the people he found no case against Jesus, but the people cried ‘crucify him!’
The crowds cried “crucify him”. What happened to the crowds from last Sunday who’d be crying “Hosanna!”? Were they afraid? Were they hiding? Or possibly worse still… were they the same people?
In the face of this demand from the people, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. John tells us that Jesus carried his cross to the Place of the Skull, and there they crucified him.
John tells us that Jesus’ last words from the cross were “It is finished.”
It is finished. Or ‘it is accomplished’ in some translations.
What is finished?
What could someone in total anguish. Total despair. On that cross. Completely alone, accomplish?
In Luke’s gospel, we read more about the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus. One hurled insults at Jesus: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal reacted differently. He recognised Jesus for who he was. Luke tells us that the second criminal rebuked the first “Don’t you fear God? … we are punished justly… but this man has done nothing wrong”
And having recognised Jesus, he turns to him in hope “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”.
Just picture that criminal for a moment. Hanging there on the cross, waiting to die of exposure or trauma or blood loss or suffocation, and he turns to the man hanging next to him for help. A man in exactly the same situation that he is. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus said to that man, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”.
Even though he himself was dying, Jesus was compassionate to the criminal.
And the criminal had done nothing to earn Jesus’ favour, he hadn’t given money to charity, or made good on broken promises, or done good deeds. And indeed in his situation, there was no chance to do any of those things.
But he could put his faith in Jesus: “remember me, when you come into your kingdom”
And no matter where we are or what we’ve done or how bad we’re feeling, that’s all we need to do. The criminal could put his faith in Jesus, and so can we. “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom”.
At the beginning of his ministry “…Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news”.
In Jesus’ life and ministry, the kingdom of God had come near.
But in Jesus’ death, the kingdom of God had arrived.
It is finished. It is accomplished. It is done.
The power of sin and death had been broken.
It is finished for the criminal. Jesus finished it for him.
And it is finished for us. The power of death over our lives is finished.
Yes, it’s still daunting. But because Jesus died. Because Jesus finished it. It is finished. Once and for all.
The distance from the Triumphal Entry to Golgotha isn’t far, and I’m told by people that have done it that these days it quite a pleasant walk. For Jesus, though, at one level, it was a long way, from the adulation of Palm Sunday, to the agony of the cross. The week, in the politics of first century Judea, had been a long one. From the crowds’ praise on Sunday, to sneering and mocking on Friday.
But at another level, the crowd’s cries of “Hosanna!” “Save us!” on Palm Sunday, were answered by Jesus’ death on Good Friday. “It is finished”.
We have a choice, though. There were two criminals crucified with Jesus. One hurled insults at Jesus. One turned to Jesus. We have that choice. All people have that choice. Many, many people still today choose to hurl insults at Jesus, to mock him, to sneer at him, to turn away from him, even as they’re dying.
But if we turn to Jesus and ask him to remember us, then truly, when our time comes, we will be with him in paradise.
Hymn: 342 When I survey the wondrous cross
Let us pray,
We have been reminded this morning that in Jesus death, it is finished. That the power of sin and death over us has no hold.
But we live in the time between Jesus’ ascension and his return.
A time of turmoil, a time of danger, a time of uncertainty.
A time of sadness, a time of despair, a time of pain.
Remind us today of the hope you have given us: The sure and certain hope you have given us, through the sacrifice of your only begotten son.
Give us strength to share the good news to the ends of the earth. Empower and inspire missionaries and ministers so the gospel may be heard by all people.
Keep us safe, Lord, in our lives. Protect us from danger. We remember those travelling this long weekend, and pray for patience and safety.
Strengthen those who work to help and serve and protect all people. For those who step into danger, so that we do not.
We uphold to you, Lord, to all who suffer, all of those who fear, all of those in need of your healing, your comfort and your peace.
We pray for your church here in Carlingford. For all who lead and support and care for your people. We thank you for the blessings you have given us, and pray that by your grace we will be a blessing to others.
And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Assurance of Forgiveness
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
God has forgiven us all our sins,
erasing the record that stood against us
with its legal demands;
this God set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
In Christ, we are forgiven!
Thanks be to God
May Christ our crucified Saviour draw you to himself,
that you may find in him a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
the assurance of sins forgiven.
Go with the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.