(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Good Friday 2012
6th April 2012
A week, they say, is a long time in politics. That’s been true for at least 2000 years. Around this time every year, we remember the most momentous week in politics, ever.
2000 years ago, Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey, and was hailed as The King of the Jews. The people loved him. They threw their cloaks, and even branches of the local trees, in front of his donkey, as a kind of red carpet, welcoming the King into His capital city. There was great rejoicing.
But the politicians were not happy. They were in control, and they intended to remain in control.
The next day, Jesus went to the temple with a whip, and drove out the people who were selling goods in the temple courts, saying that God intended the temple to be “a house of prayer for all nations” but that they’d made it “a den of robbers”. Religion is about prayer and service to God and our fellow men, not about making money.
The politicians were afraid of him because he was so popular, and they started looking for a way to kill him. They knew they’d have to be crafty about it, or there’d be a riot.
They persuaded Judas, one of his followers, to betray him. Judas led a large crowd, armed with swords and clubs, to arrest the man the Bible calls the Prince of Peace. Jesus asked them “am I leading a rebellion, that you’ve come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” That’s a really good question. Was Jesus leading a rebellion?
They took him to the Sanhedrin which was, among other things, the Jewish High Court, and they incited liars to make up evidence against him. Eventually, they convicted him of blasphemy, because he admitted that he was the Son of God. So here’s another question: Is Jesus the Son of God? If so, it wasn’t blasphemy.
They condemned Jesus to death, but the Romans who ruled there at that time didn’t give the Jews the right to execute people, so they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate couldn’t find anything wrong with Jesus, and tried to save him, but he was careful to protect his own political career. Looking for a way out, he sent Jesus to Herod, the ruler of Galilee, in the hope that Herod would deal with the problem. But Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate tried to set Him free. But the Jewish politicians stirred up the crowd, persuading them to insist that Jesus be crucified.
Why do we allow out politicians to change how we think? Why is it that now, as then, if the politicians and their spokesmen in the media say something often enough, loud enough, we come to believe what they’re saying?
And Jesus was tortured, and led away to the place of the skull, and nailed to the cross. They executed him between two thieves, determined to destroy his reputation as well as his life. They hurled insults at him, and mocked him.
Why is so much of politics about mocking those who disagree with us?
And, on the cross, Jesus prayed for God to forgive them.
And then He died.
Was Jesus a revolutionary? Oh yes! But his was a revolution of peace, and of love. He was the original non-violent protestor. He saw that this world would be a better place if we loved one another, and forgave one another. He knew that we can’t make a better society by making more and more laws; we can only build a better society by becoming better people. And we can become better people by allowing the love of God into our hearts.
And the followers of Jesus Christ – the Christians – the Church – bring the same message today. The Jesus revolution continues to make progress all over the world, not by trying to control people, like the politicians do, but by helping people to discover the love, and peace, and power of God. Sometimes, church leaders have behaved too much like politicians, and become a bit like those Jewish leaders 2000 years ago, and tried to control people. This obscures Jesus’s message of peace and love. But the church’s purpose is not to control people; it’s to help people find real freedom.
The politicians succeeded in killing Jesus Christ, the Son of God. They hoped that would be the end of the Jesus revolution. They hoped they could go on controlling people, and passing laws, and keeping power for themselves.
But the death of Jesus wasn’t the end of the Jesus revolution. It was only the beginning. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. Fifty days later, God sent the Holy Spirit to inspire and equip the church to tell the world about His revolution of love and forgiveness. And that’s what we’re doing. We’ve been sharing the love of God with our neighbours for 2000 years. And we’ll keep on doing it.
Some politicians may try to stop us. But they won’t.