Love for the Lawless and Crucifying the Blameless
Good Friday C | Luke 22:39-23:56
Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.
WHEN I FIRST DENIED JESUS
When I first denied Jesus
I was in grade school. He had my name,
but went by Andy.
This Andy lived down the street and
Our friendship was based on convenience,
His convenience mostly.
And it took several years
For me to figure out that it was he
Who was lying about me
To our friends, classmates.
So after one too many reconciliations
I learned to hate him.
Another denial came
When I took to stealing baseball cards
With some friends
Who abandoned me
After we got caught in a Kmart,
and taken in by squad car.
More denials came, one after
The other, but it wasn’t just a middle school phase
Because high school was
Just as bad. Maybe worse.
There the lies began to pile up
(All of them innocent,
of course) and none of them
Hurt anyone else. It was just that I had
Status to maintain
Social, academic, athletic
But none of these compared with college
And the many years since.
Every day that passes
Brings a new opportunity to deny Jesus:
I’m not with him!
It was the time
I didn’t deny Jesus that hurt the most.
The time I spoke honestly
About myself, my calling
To serve Jesus with all of my heart
Which was the time
I was denied by the church.
There is this moment before all of the stuff hits the fan that none of us would notice. And if we did notice, it would lead us down the kind of rabbit hole through which really bad ideas begin to make sense and we might find ourselves losing sight of Jesus. Because we’ll paint this picture of Jesus, like an icon, but more like an idol that will stand in for the real Jesus. A cardboard cutout Christ. The kind of idol that has Jesus suggest we kill rather than love and pray for and show mercy to our friends and enemies and all manner of neighbor.
And this iconic idol image we put up comes through the bloody sacrifice of the cross and the mighty resurrection and comes in the later days to wage a holy war. The dangers of this conviction are alive in our world and pregnant with every RFRA passed and every call for mandatory Merry Christmases.
The aggressor, the hate-spewing Jesus, coming to divide and conquer and kill, and all these people around us saying “thank GOD it won’t be me” rather than “Oh GOD! All those people!”
That Jesus, that idol, the cardboard Christ is present every time we come to the Passion and see only Jesus; when we come and lose sight of who Jesus is to all of these people.
He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
AMONG THE LAWLESS
Why now, Jesus? Why throw it all away?
We are so close.
We are singing liberation and you have taught us
To love and pray and make a real difference
In the world. We can tell:
It is all beginning to happen!
When you sent us out to cure the sick and redeem
The world, we admit that we didn’t believe you
Because, how could we, really? But we
Listened to you anyway and went and it worked!
Now, when things get hard, you tell us, what?
To throw it away? Everything? To be like we were?
Violent, distrustful: back to those fishing boats
Or collecting taxes or walking the streets.
You said to take nothing and now? Sell it?
Buy a weapon? Because we’ll need it…
But you said we don’t! Now–I’m confused.
Wait…I didn’t bring any stuff, except
This one change of clothes. You know
How I sweat in my sleep.
He had some stuff he couldn’t part with.
Where’d these swords come from? Who’s
I swear we trusted you, Jesus! We haven’t
Abandoned you! We really did trust GOD.
We could heal those people. You should’ve seen it.
This is what you meant, isn’t it? About the lawless.
Not that you are.
Only we are.
Your followers, your believers, the guilty.
When we read the Passion, we all have our own experience, but there is this thing for me this year, this sense that Jesus is walking through and amid such human confusion. It is swirling all around him: the pain and anxiety and the sense that he is the only one with any confidence that the sun will dawn in the morning.
And he is walking among the lawless, all of these people, all of them without regard to the law. And when I say law, I mean The Law, not those human rules of order keeping and the many ways in which we punish one another or prioritize our property keeping.
I hear The Law and the beauty of GOD’s dream for us to love and respect and show mercy. And I hear Jesus’s call to stop worrying about the petty and embody the healthy. And all around him is insecurity and conflict and hatred and fear and nobody believes in GOD. None of these people. For if they did, they would trust in Jesus and they wouldn’t hand him over to be killed and they wouldn’t have him killed and they wouldn’t kill him. And then, because they really believed, those devoted followers wouldn’t run away.
Where did they go? After they showed up
with wood and steel, to take the bandit king,
Our Messiah, where did they go?
To the bar, to drink away their sorrows?
Flee the scene? Get out of town?
Did they gather to come up with a backup plan?
-This man wasn’t much of a messiah, was he?-
-There must be another one coming.-
-One who doesn’t talk only of love,
If you get my meaning.-
They aren’t there to witness the execution
Or pray with him at the end. Only the women
Who weep and pray and care for the Christ
In his suffering and in his death.
The men are gone,
As far as their belief can take them and
As swift as their fear.
If they stayed they would realize
That they are not alone.
That one of their own got away with
Cutting the man’s ear off,
That terrorist, Barabbas was released,
-And he killed someone.-
If they stayed they would see
Jesus hanging among bandits
Convicted – only Jesus is blameless.
Standing there, you might hear
Forgiveness from our blameless Lord,
The scapegoat killed so we can go on and ignore our sin.
Even then is more merciful than we.
If they stayed they would feel
The loss of innocence, the death
Of humanity and its potential.
And then, even then, in the darkest
Hours of their lives, even as
The ground may shake beneath them,
They might know true love.