Good Friday - 19 April 2019
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center — Shorewood, WI
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
In the Name of Jesus, the Crucified + Amen
The text is John 19:25-27: NEAR JESUS’ CROSS HIS MOTHER WAS STANDING, AND HIS MOTHER’S SISTER, MARY OF CLOPAS, AND MARY OF MAGDALA. JESUS SAW HIS MOTHER AND THE DISCIPLE HE LOVED STANDING NEAR HER AND HE TOLD HIS MOTHER, “MA’AM, THERE’S YOUR SON.” AND HE TOLD THE DISCIPLE, “THERE’S YOUR MOTHER.” AND FROM THEN ON, THE DISCIPLE TOOK HER INTO HIS OWN HOME.
NEAR JESUS’ CROSS, it says. You come here because He said, “WHEREVER TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED ... I’ll be there.” You come because “in, with, and under” this bread and wine, He’s here. And where else is there to go in this world? You come to be with Him, and you find the others who’ve come—by how many roads to get here?—to be with Him, because there’s nowhere else for them to go, either. NEAR JESUS’ CROSS HIS MOTHER WAS STANDING. Where else was there to go? AND THE DISCIPLE HE LOVED—where else was there for John to go? STANDING NEAR HER, to be near Him.
His Mother and His best friend found each other near the cross, in agony at the sight of the nails, at the sight of the pain. But for Christ, hanging in the pain, from the nails…for Christ it was all about their grief, not His. And He drew you here today, and it’s not about Him. We sing, “Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree,” and He says, “For you, all this I gladly suffer.”
But that’s not what He told them on Calvary. He didn’t say, “O Mother, this is because I love you.” He didn’t tell John again what He’d told him some twelve hours earlier: “DON’T BE AFRAID. YOU’LL SEE ME AGAIN, AND BECAUSE I’M ALIVE YOU’LL LIVE TOO!” They knew those words but they couldn’t hear them.
Consider Mary. It was one thing to know that her Son was born to die. It was a entirely other thing to see Him actually crucified. Consider John. It was one thing to hear that his Master was going to lay down His life. It was a whole other thing to hear Him actually groaning. It’s one thing to know that IN THIS WORLD YOU WILL SUFFER TRIBULATIONS. It’s a whole other thing when the pain really hits. Then, Christ doesn’t only say, I AM YOUR REFUGE AND YOUR RICH REWARD. Though it ought to be enough. It ought to be more than enough. But Christ knows His fellow-humans, and our weakness and confusions, which is why, along with the Word, He gives human arms to hold us, human hands to comfort us.
Just before He left for Gethsemane and the execution they couldn’t imagine or understand, He told them, CHILDREN, WHERE I’M GOING YOU CAN’T COME. LOVE EACH OTHER! He told them, YOU WON’T SEE ME FOR A LITTLE WHILE. LOVE EACH OTHER THE WAY I’VE LOVED YOU.
And while He was dying on the cross, JESUS SAW HIS MOTHER AND THE DISCIPLE HE LOVED STANDING NEAR HER AND He gave them to each other. HE TOLD HIS MOTHER, “MA’AM, THERE’S YOUR SON.” AND HE TOLD THE DISCIPLE, “THERE’S YOUR MOTHER.” “Mother, look at John. He’s crying, Mother.” “John, your arms are free; hold My Mother.” Mary had other family. But they weren’t NEAR THE CROSS. NEAR JESUS’ CROSS, Christ gave her a new son; He gave John a new mother and not virtually: FROM THEN ON THE DISCIPLE TOOK HER INTO HIS OWN HOME until she died.
We usually say that Christ created the Church on Pentecost, but I think He started it right there with these two: HE LOVED HIS OWN; He brought them together; He gave them to each other. And WHO IS MY MOTHER AND MY BROTHER AND MY SISTER? Whom do you find with Jesus? Whom do I meet NEAR the CROSS? THE CHURCH WHICH IS HIS BODY IN WHOM HE LIVES: and “in, with, and under” them, He’s here. Here are MY MOTHERS AND MY BROTHERS AND MY SISTERS. Jesus sees them NEAR His CROSS.
Though, unhappily, they’re not quite as splendid as St. John or as glorious as the Blessed Virgin. What does He see at the foot of His cross. He sees a lot of lesser Marys saying, “Why is it always, ‘Look at them?’ How about looking at me, once?!?” He sees lots of lesser St. Johns saying, “Hold her? Take care of them? Thanks, but my plate is full .... Jesus.” It’d be different if it was Mother Mary or John or somebody as easy to love as that. Maybe we could make a deal: I get Blessed Mary to love just as soon as I’m like St. John, and you get the Holy Apostle to love just as soon you’re like the Mother of God. But until then, it’s just us. It’s just us. It’s the kind that He called and sent for and brought here. It’s the kind that come to the Cross of Jesus because we haven’t got anywhere else to go, because nobody else is bleeding for us. Nobody else is bleeding all over our impatience and anger, bleeding all over our selfishness, bleeding all over our love measured out by spoonfuls and all over our love poured out till it hurts and stops.
Nobody bleeds like Jesus, but as far as He’s concerned, it’s not about Him. As far as He’s concerned, it’s all about the sinners who’ve got nowhere else to go; it’s all about the ones He’s gathered NEAR the CROSS, where He bled to cover all the sins of Mary and John and Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene and all the sins - it is an Ocean - of all the millions before and after, wave on wave, the red love that covers us all, the BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST that CLEANSES US all. I said, “That cleanses us!” And there’s proof.
Tell me, who did you name in your will as guardians for your loved ones? But He’s named you. The things He left Heaven for - oh, things He didn’t want to live without: His children, His brothers, His sisters, His mothers - The TREASURE HE FOUND IN THIS bleak FIELD - and He left them to you? THE PEARL HE SPENT EVERYTHING TO BUY and He’s put them in your hands. How clean must you be? He gave John His own Mother. He gave Mary His best friend. And you and me: Look at what you find here, NEAR JESUS’ CROSS: Look at your mothers and your fathers, your sons and your daughters, your brothers and your sisters. IT DOTH NOT YET APPEAR WHAT they SHALL BE, BUT WE KNOW THAT WHEN CHRIST APPEARS, they SHALL APPEAR WITH HIM IN GLORY. And I AM CONVINCED THAT their BRIEF, MOMENTARY SINNING, IS NOT WORTHY TO BE COMPARED WITH THE GLORY THAT SHALL BE REVEALED IN THEM. LOOK AT them now in these few days of their sins and sorrows. LOOK AT them now, during the only time they need your love, and you have need of theirs.
Where He lays down His life for us, WE OUGHT TO LAY OUR LIVES DOWN FOR everyone we find NEAR His CROSS. I’m not great at it; neither are you, but IF WE CONFESS this sin, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US this sin, and to lay on our hearts as on the high priest’s breastplate, the jewels which are His last and most precious bequest: BELOVED, LET US LOVE EACH OTHER - not till it hurts, but till all the hurting is over. Amen.