Meditation written by Cathy Tamsberg.
Read by Jim Epps.
Today our lectionary text leads us on a journey that is familiar to most of us. (John 18:1-19:42) In this lengthy passage, Jesus moves from his heart-wrenching prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane and his betrayal by Judas to his arrest and appearance before Pilate. His crucifixion and burial follow. We also learn of his friend Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus and the gifts of a burial site and spices to prepare his body from his friends Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Even without its theological significance these scenes provide a story worthy of Hollywood’s best.
But what is its theological significance? Or more directly, via Good Friday’s most-provoked question, why did Jesus have to die? Was it because he proclaimed a kingdom of love that would not be controlled by the violence of Rome? Because Rome might punish all of the Jews as a result of Jesus’ traitorous claims? Because he interrupted orderly religious practice and threatened the status quo? The common view of a Jesus sent by God as a sacrifice for our sins took a thousand years to develop and it’s not the only one out there, contrary to what you hear from some quarters of Christianity. There are other ways to give meaning to the events of this week.
Reflecting on what the crucifixion of Jesus means to you is a valuable task on this Good Friday. But as you do, take the advice of some progressive Christians: If your theory of the cross completely contradicts everything Jesus stood for and taught, you might want to re-think it. The gospel is rooted in love of enemies, not in responding to violence with violence. Marcus Borg and others suggest that Jesus died because of human sin, not in the place of humans who sin. As you ponder the events of this day and what they mean for your life and the life of the world, also consider how it felt to the friends of Jesus to see his life come to an end.
This meditation is from “Lent: Sowing Season, Holy Time,” a collection of daily readings by Associate Pastor Cathy Tamsberg. Each day during Lent, from Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013, to Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, a new excerpt read by a member of the Pullen congregation will be made available. To hear each day’s reading as it is published, subscribe to Pullen’s RSS feed, or listen to the podcast in iTunes.