Homily , Good Friday, April 9, 2020
John 18:9“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me” (John 18:9)
I don’t know why I know this, but I know for solders, there is this stern commitment, that no matter what happens, ‘no one gets left behind’. Maybe I picked this maxim up from all the war movies I have seen over the years. “No one gets left behind”.
To my surprise, as I hear these beautifully woven words of John telling of what he and the others saw and heard as Jesus goes to the gallows, these words above all words were there; or almost there. They really stick out to me in this pandemic threat. Like a soldier reporting to his commanding officer at the end of a battle, Jesus says to his loving Father,
“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me.” (John 18:9)
These words are now burnt into my consciousness anew. Jesus says to his disciples before this ugly but good day happens, that not one of his people has been or will ever be lost; never be left behind by Jesus.
These are not easy words for a soldier to say, or for Jesus to say. They might cost you. They might cost you your freedom, your health, your lifestyle, your life. That will be the case for Jesus. This commitment to people will cost him his life.
Events can overtake the best soldier, even one making this pledge, “No one gets left behind”. As Jesus makes this announcement that he has got his people this far, events now overtaking him. Now comes the hardest bit that will cost everything.
The threatening posse comes. The payment has been made, the betraying kiss given. Suffering and death are now fated. For us to not be left behind to threats and fear and vile death, Jesus will have to win this last battle – and alone. Only he could do it.
Like this pandemic with all its huge changes to our lives, Jesus’ suffering must now simply be endured.
At the pointy end of a weapon; at the pointy of this demonic transaction; the point of arrest when tension is high and life is at its thinnest, Jesus gives himself. But as he does, he protects the innocent or the incapable. He gives his life so the others can have one.
As he sacrifices himself like a faithful soldier or friend, he fulfills the great mission of the Father, the Son and Spirit from the beginning of time.
The great “I AM’ has always given himself up for the sake of his wounded, ignorant, scared and incapable creation. He does it most immediately, most humanly, most unmissably, most painfully this day.
Whatever has already happened this day, whatever has already happened in this pandemic, and whatever will still happen, Jesus says that in it all he will not lose any of the ones the Father has given him. He will not lose you this Good Friday like no other.
No follower of Jesus, no baptised son or daughter, no person of living faith in him, no one with any kind of real and right relationship with him, wherever they exist now or existed before this time has been or will be lost.
Friend, whatever happens to you in all of this, you will remain found, never lost, for however long you might feel lost as you go it alone in these isolated times.
Of course, this is not easy to believe. It is not easy to believe for these close friends in the garden when the power of Rome and misguided religion descend.
It is not easy for us when the threat of disease and uncertain future is just outside your front door. Just ask Peter. He feels the need to resort to more immediate measures to break out. Out comes the sword and of off goes Malchus’ ear!
Many are attempting to do similar with this pandemic threat. We are throwing money at it. We are engaging all our medical might, our scientific research, our people management and policing skills. We are throwing the kitchen sink at this thing.
We have to do these things. Just and right governments and organisations in all spheres should do these things for the good of all people.
But all this in the end won’t be the most telling thing that will heal us fully, restore us to community fully, reset our Western society fully, or our global environment fully and for lasting time beyond this threat.
This is because organisations and governments, though part of God’s amazing grace for his planet earth, cannot deal with what this Jesus can deal with.
Human power and skills can do much good and should do its best good, but this life-giving Jesus will deal with the great enemy, death itself, in all forms and for all causes – virus or other. Peter, Jesus will deal death the killer blow by forgiveness, not sword.
As he dangles in the hot sun in full shame and resounding pain, to no applause, but derision from the crowd, our shame and pain is hung out to dry.
It does not seem as effective as Peter’s sword. But just like that ear healed in a moment, so Satan’s viral threat of death is killed this good day.
In the moment of the deepest darkest self-isolation a human being could ever experience; as he gives voice to that cry of total isolation; total forsakenness, this bleeding man gives up his life for the life of this dangerous and unwell creation.
He takes it all so we can live it all.
He pays for our doubt and sickness and fear and wayward wondering heart bent on self-satisfaction at any cost.
He gives it all so we can receive it all. He attacks it all so we can live in all of the peace we could ever have without his life on planet earth, at home or running free.
This virus will come to its end as everything does, even you and me. This man of sorrows who is familiar with all our human ways will live on from this day.
He has lived in his people through many a pandemic, a war, an injustice, a flood, a fire, a wave. Because he lives through it, we can live in it.
He lives in you now. And that is how you know that what he said still stands.
“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me” (John 18:9)
He has not lost you yet, friend. He will never lose you. He will lose himself for you. He will find you whenever you feel the loss.
It’s Good Friday. Our life has purpose. Find the lost. Give yourself for them. Through your loss they and you will be found anew in his love.
No one gets left behind.