Good Friday Homily 2016
John 18:28-4028 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. 33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
“He took my place and this changes everything”.
Like a person who has been in a major vehicle accident where another person in the car wreck has suffered serious injury or died; like the surviving members of the crew and passengers of the Titanic; like a family who still have their home after a bushfire while others have lost everything; like an employee who has avoided being retrenched while others were not so lucky, Barabbas the rebellious extremist is suffering from what we have come to know as “survivor guilt.”.
I heard about this very hard thing that many people around us have experienced as a result of the Pinery fires. It is this terrible false guilt at being more fortunate than others. It is false guilt.
Survivor guilt is not rational or realistic or right, but it just comes upon people who have fared better in a tragedy. It comes upon people who care about others and want the best for others. The very fact that a person has this untrue, unjustified “guilt” says a lot about their character – they care!
If there was ever a man in history who fared very well compared to another man who did not, it would be Barabbas.
Unlike the survivors we have mentioned, Barabbas’ guilt is true and rational. He is a fair and square guilty man under the rule of law that most countries would hold. He is guilty of sedition – trying to overthrow the government by illegal means. He reminds me of the extremist movements/leaders we have been concerned about these last 15 years.
But Barabbas gets off free when he does not deserve it. He is freed by a weak and corrupt man; that man Pontius Pilatus, who caves into to popular hatred and sets the guilty man free while imprisoning, torturing and eventually executing the innocent man in Barabbas’ place. Jesus the innocent, unjustly an violently treated, is condemned as a criminal.
I wonder how Barabbas lived the rest of his life? Did he spiral into depression, never shaking off his survivor guilt enough to be free and live fully and much more completely than he ever could have without that man Jesus taking his place?
Did Barabbas ever know who Jesus really was after his unjust release from certain death and after Jesus’ rising from death to usher in that “kingdom from another place”?
Or did Barabbas eventually move on from the guilt to be captured by a new found freedom and love of a God who has done this kind of thing and would do this kind of thing for a lot more people than just Barabbas with a heart full of thanks to Jesus and faith in Jesus?
Did Barabbas end up living his life trusting that his freedom and life were completely dependent on that condemned man that literally took his place on the gallows?
If he did, that would be wonderful and quite life changing, wouldn’t it? You’d live life as one big response of thanksgiving to Jesus and you would trust Jesus for everything since you know you can trust him with your life because you know his character.
Whatever happened to Barabbas, we live in the same moment he lived in. We are all survivors of God’s just, right and true judgement on our wayward and rebellious spirits. We are all living the life God has given because of that man of sorrows, that man of the cross.
I hear you say, “I am not that bad, Pastor!” “I have not participated in any student uprising that destroyed property or people. I pay my taxes. I do good when I can. I do the best I can with what I have.
I am not claiming to be special. I am not some wild left or right wing extremist, extreme in my views to join a protest or even a rebellion against governing authorities like Barabbas did”.
Fair point. But that is not the point. It is always the case with God that whoever we are and whatever we do or not do is not the heart of it. The heart is the heart of it, and only the Lord of life knows the human heart fully.
He says that no one in this space can be good enough, self-sufficient enough, loving enough, successful enough or family enough to live in complete peace, live in complete love, know complete understanding of the world and the God who created it and sustains it and loves it.
To hold up a list trying to convince God we are not as bad as Barabbas is to miss the heart of the matter. The human heart is flawed. We are out of sync with God. We find ourselves naturally serving ourselves and others and other things more than loving our Creator and our fellow travellers on this life’s journey – even those we know we love.
What parent is perfect? What teacher is always on top of things? What farmer is all knowing? Which of us can boast about how good we are, how special we are, how much God should really give us freedom, acceptance and real life bases on our own merits?
“What is truth”, asks a cynical Pilate. Well on this holy day, it would be more accurate, truthful and helpful in the end to acknowledge that we are all survivors like Barabbas.
Because of this one man’s unjust treatment, things have been put right and justice has been served by a holy and just God on all of my wrongs, all of my rebellious attitudes, all of my harmful and hurtful words and actions. They are all covered in the blood of this man and it is a holy, sweet, life-giving blood that covers mine.
Because of this man’s condemnation to certain and painful death, my death is not complete or final and life continues now and beyond our death because of him. The dark veil of human death that covers humanity has a tear in it. With Jesus we can slip out from underneath this darkness and live in light and live life stronger, better, more fully and freely.
Friend, on Good Friday you are survivor, not suffering ‘survivor guilt’ but ‘survivor freedom and life’.
Today it is now Jesus’ custom to release one prisoner at a time. Let him release you from dying to living, from self to thanksgiving, from false guilt to truth and the freedom it brings, from arrogance to humility, from distraction to sharp focus that he brings to the mind and heart, from aloneness to great belonging and love in his kingdom of another world now here.
“He took my place and this changes everything”.
Thanks from my heart, I offer
O Jesus, dearest friend.
For all that you have suffered;
Your mercy without end.
O grant that I may always
To your truth faithful be
When soul and body sever
May I be found in you.
(from O Sacred Head, now wounded LH 52)