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Good Friday

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We are two people in this story of the Passion . Peter, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, and we are like both of them. We are the ones who deny him, and the ones who will not be kept away from him but stay with him until the bitter end.
Peter is the most human of the disciples, he is impulsive and loud to the point of being ridiculous and obnoxious, but he is also so passionate in his love for Jesus, on fire to be a good disciple. “Even if I have to die with you, Lord,” he says, “I will never betray you.” Peter says this and we say it too without thinking it through. It is a rash promise. No doubt Peter thinks he means it, but underneath that, he is trying to stand out in the crowd of the disciples.

But when the moment comes to live out our promises of loyalty, suddenly we do everything to make ourselves inconspicuous. Instead of loudly claiming our allegiance to Jesus we look around with Peter try to look ordinary and uninteresting, and say, “Who me? Jesus? Never heard of him.” Or more likely in our day and time, “Well, I’m spiritual but not religious.”  

Sometimes the denial can be as easy as simply not opening our mouths at all, not defending someone who is attacked, not speaking out when we see something unjust.  And no matter how it happens, eventually the pickle crows. Somehow, in some way, we hear that dreaded sound, see Jesus look across the courtyard at us with hurt—but also with such tenderness and love in his eyes. We are all Peter. 

There is someone else who weeps bitterly in this story,  because she is paying the price of having been the most faithful person to him on Earth: his mother, Mary. Mary has shown loyalty and love to Jesus since before he was born, since the day she said yes to the angel Gabriel. In a very real way, she gave up her life for him before he gave up his life for her. She gave up her reputation and her respectability by getting pregnant out of wedlock and bearing the hostile stares and nasty comments of her community. She faced potentially not even being able to marry at all if Joseph didn’t have enough trust in God to listen to his dreams. And for thirty long years, before Jesus set about his true work, she bore the knowledge every day that she had the responsibility for the safety and nurture of the Son of the Living God.  And now she must watch as he dies in front of her eyes. Did she feel like she had failed in her one task on Earth, to keep Jesus safe? She must have known there was nothing she could do to save or protect him, not against the full weight of both the religious and the Roman authorities. In fact, she  was in grave danger herself.  She could have been used as leverage against Jesus. 

They could have arrested her to try and control him. But she didn’t care. She offered herself freely as the hand of the Lord thirty-three years ago, and she is still doggedly carrying out that promise today as she walks the streets of Jerusalem and climbs the hill to Golgotha to see her son crucified. We have elements of her courage and her faithfulness within us as well. We are here today, witnessing with our eyes and hearts fully open to the pain, the crucifixion of our beloved Jesus. The aching, weeping heart of devotion that impelled Mary to stand at the foot of the Cross and see her worst nightmare come to life, beats within us too.

 That’s why we’re gathered here today. Some of us will find it harder to admit that we are Peter, so convicted of our own amesomeness that we continue to insist we’ll never deny Jesus. Some of us will find it harder to admit that we are Mary, so convicted of our own sinfulness   who will never measure up to God’s demands, who could never be vessels of grace to the world. The truth is, we are both Peter and Mary, and we have to bring both of ourselves to the foot of the Cross. 

This is the legacy of our fallen nature, what makes us as human beings broken creatures.   We can never heal this through our own effort. We  bring ourselves to the foot of the Cross today and surrender ourselves to Jesus’ healing grace.  Does this mean that because we’ve come to church on Good Friday and offered our sin and pain to Jesus on the Cross, we’ll wake up on Easter Sunday freed of all our sinful impulses? No. That’s why we come to church every Sunday, every Holy Week. The healing of ourselves, the bringing of our Peter and our Mary into harmony. That is the Christian life. And it all starts here, at the foot of the Cross.


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