Good Friday — 14 April 2017
Trinity – 12:15 pm
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 | Psalm 22 | Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 | John 18:1-19:42
“So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’” [John 19:5]
Pilate said far more than he knew. For Jesus is indeed “The Man” – the Human Being. Ecce homo; idou ho anthropos. Despised, mocked, beaten, bound, powerless, helpless, condemned to die – everything which our values tell us to avoid being. And yet in this little vignette – so pitifully typical of so much of human life in all times and all places – it is Jesus, rather than Pilate, who is “The Man.”
We talk a lot, within Christian faith, of things like salvation and redemption, and I sometimes wonder if all we mean by that is just getting whisked out of a world of pain and sorrow off to a magic never-never land in the sky. Well, there’s a bit of truth to that, in amongst the simplistic caricature of the reality of the thing. But what God is really up to in God’s loving tireless quest for our salvation is not just to make sure we get tickets for heaven instead of hell, but to restore us to the fullness of humanity as God’s sons and daughters, to make it possible for us to become, finally, who we really are, who we are really meant to be, as human persons created in a finite world yet called to citizenship in an eternal kingdom and destined for everlasting glory. God wants us to be fully, truly, human – each of us a full, true human person – not the poor bent twisted shadow of the real thing that the world seems to take for granted as ‘being human.” The model, the example, the herald, the pioneer, the enabler of that new, restored, fulfilled humanity is Jesus, The Man, The Human Being. Look. Here’s the Real Thing. Real humanity does not consist in getting power, but in giving love. Jesus is it. Pilate isn’t.
It’s not a part of God’s plan – not directly – that being a real human being must necessarily involve pain and suffering and death. These are not good things; they are not, really, authentically human things. But if we are to live in a world in which most people are capable of looking at The Man himself and crying “Crucify him, crucify him!” then the pain and suffering and death will go with the territory for those who are authentically human.
We look at Pilate, robed in all the pride and power of Imperial Rome; and we look at Jesus, robed in mockery and crowned with thorns. Which one is really The Man, The Human Person?
But of course, we know how the story turns out in the end.
But do we always remember?