Homily for Good Friday
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us. Amen.
Last Sunday we sang Hosanna to Jesus our King. We Americans haven’t had a king in over 200 years. We didn’t really appreciate him so we had a revolution.
Things have changed since then. Around the world, monarchs have taken on more of a ceremonial role. There are very few countries that have kings and queens who ruled like they did in the time of Jesus.
So calling Jesus a king doesn’t have the same meaning for us that it had back then. We don’t seem to have any trouble with saying it. After all, we have a government that we elect. We can choose not to re-elect them, if we don’t like what they do.
Pilate knew what a king was. He knew what kind of power a king had. He knew that kings had complete power over the lives of their subjects. Kings could start wars, impose peace, and draft anyone to do anything.
Refuse to do something the king commanded, and the king could have you put to death, no questions asked. If you are not the king and you say that you are a king, you commit treason. A king requires our total allegiance.
Pilate knew this, yet he is the one who put the sign over the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” He wanted to be sure everyone could see it and read it. He had it written in all three languages of the people.
This sign, this written proclamation by Pilate, may be the only thing Jesus has in common with earthly kings. An earthly ruler has to proclaim that a king is a king. Pilate has formally proclaimed Jesus is king by posting the sign and saying, “What I have written, I have written.”
Jesus isn’t the kind of king that we think of when we think of European rulers. Jesus is a different kind of king. He wasn’t just a ceremonial king. He is not the kind of king we dress up and parade around. He doesn’t just host dinners and read prepared speeches to dedicate new buildings.
Jesus is a different kind of king. His throne is not a large comfortable padded chair upholstered in red velvet. His throne is more like an electric chair. It is the instrument of capital punishment. His throne is the cross.
When Jesus is proclaimed the king, he is lifted up on the cross. His kingship becomes real in the moment of his crucifixion.
Jesus is a different kind of king. His kingship is interwoven with the story of the Passover. He becomes the lamb who is sacrificed for the people.
When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, Pharaoh would not let the people go. God sent plagues upon the land. The final plague was the death of the first born son.
The Israelites sacrificed a lamb and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their houses. Then the angel of death passed over the houses marked with the blood of that lamb.
John tells us that the time of Jesus’ trial was noon on the day of the preparation for the Passover. That is the hour that the Passover offerings began to be slaughtered in the temple.
This is the exact time that Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd as “King of the Jews.” Pilate asks, “Shall I crucify your king?” and the chief priests and people answer that they have no king but the emperor. They have forgotten that God is their only King.
They have forgotten, perhaps because of fear, perhaps because their lives have become fairly comfortable, and they don’t want to lose that. We understand them because we can be fearful, too. We also want to keep our comfortable lives. We get used to the way things are.Change can be scary. We can forget who is really in charge.
Jesus is a different kind of king. His throne is the cross. He is our true Passover Lamb. He was slaughtered for us so that the angel of death will pass over us and we will have eternal life. He is the kind of king who loves his people so much that he willingly dies for all of them.
Thanks be to God. Amen.