Fr. Philip Sang: Suffering Servant

Sermon delivered on Good Friday, March 25, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 52.13-53.12; Psalm 22.1-31; Hebrews 4.14-16, 5.7-9; John 18.1-19.42.

Good Friday, the most tragically beautiful date on the Christian calendar, is set aside to remember the passion of our Lord. It’s tragic for what the creator would suffer at the hands of those he created, and it’s beautiful for the work that was done on that dreadful day.

Today is the bleakest moment in the Gospel story. Reading the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion today, we have the benefit of knowing that it’s all leading up to the triumph of Easter. But to the Jesus-followers present at the scene, it must have seemed that the world as they knew it was falling apart and maybe Coming to an end.

One of the challenges of reading the crucifixion story two thousand years after the event took place is that it’s difficult for us to empathize with its participants. From our perspective, the Easter crowds seem insanely fickle; Jesus’ disciples seem utterly clueless; the members of the Sandhedrin seem evil; and Pilate corrupt.

Those things are true. Nobody except Jesus behaves well in the Good Friday story. But it’s these very people—fickle, clueless, evil, corrupt—that Jesus died for.

All we like sheep have gone astray;  we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”(v. 6).

To most of us, death is not usually one of the most favourite topics for public speaking or not usually a welcome topic. For those of us who drive, we come across dead end signs when driving, and also we are always rushed to meet the deadline in our daily undertakings.

In all these cases, the word “dead” implies an end of some kind: end of the road; end of an order/programme; end of time. And “dead’ means just that: no more, finished, done, over.

But With Jesus, “already dead” isn’t the end. The cross is not only the instrument of the death of Jesus, but better to be viewed, as the sweet wood of exaltation, salvation, and reconciliation.

On this day, we need to silence ourselves and ask again and again who was this man, this man of sorrow; this man of suffering? A suffering servant as alluded to by prophet Isaiah.

And why did he have to undergo all off this?

It is my assumption that we Christians know the answers. But sometime it calls us to do more. This is why I love Good Friday service. I love the solemn atmosphere: we need to quiet our mind and soul so that the answers can resonate in an innovative and new way; that the answers will find a new way in our spirit; that the answers will awaken and find an inner room in our conscience; that place, deep within where we tend to connect with God; that place deep within where God speaks in the silence of our being.

Why did he have to suffer, be scorned?

This should drive us then to live in gratitude and love. We need to show appreciation that we have been redeemed; that Christ has transformed us from within and he has opened the gates of heaven for us.

When we ponder what Christ has done for us, this can only create a wellspring of love, gushing out from within: a wellspring of love that purifies and cleanses and returns us to the one who should be at the centre of our life.

We need to be willing to die to ourselves if we want to heal divisions, hurts and pain. We need to be willing to die if we want to love others with the same compassion and mercy that Jesus faithfully showed.

The cross, the mystery of death – calls upon us to the transformation of self, that is the only way to harmony and to lasting peace.

This day – this Good Friday, is a reminder that the road to peace is paved by a cross. This day – this Good Friday, is a reminder that “dead” is no longer the end. Death opens the way for new life, unity and peace.

All of us have betrayed and Denied Jesus like those disciples so long ago in one way or the other. The encouragement of this day is that Jesus does not count betrayal and denial as the last word. His last words, “It is finished,” indicate that he had accomplished all that was necessary to heal our betrayal, our denial of him, to heal our divisions, to bring reconciliation among us, and between humanity and his Father.

To live this well, we must surrender ourselves to do as Jesus did – die to self for the sake of others. We actually look for ways to embrace death, to be self-giving, to die to self. This is how we should live. This is how we choose life.

Today is our Lord’s Good Friday. But each of us is called in love to live our own Good Fridays.

In the name of God,the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen