This is a sermon for Good Friday, given in the “church next door.” The Scriptures it references is John 18:1 – 19:42.
What is truth?
Pilate’s question, as he interrogated Jesus. What to make of the man in front of him? What to make of the infuriating rabble outside? What to make of being the Roman official in this sun-crazed backwater of the empire? I’m sure he wished all of those questions would go away and leave him in peace, without having to try to grasp the truth.
We have our own wrestling matches with truth, too, don’t we? We live in a society which tells us that truth is relative, that there is nothing which is objectively true, only subjective constructions which belong each to the individual mind. That when we seek after something greater than ourselves as arbiter of truth, we are deluded.
Perhaps that’s the sort of thinking that allowed Pilate to wash his hands of the whole affair.
But when we look at the cross, with Jesus hanging on it bloody and beaten, we are confronted with two truths which, if we let them, can shape us profoundly.
The first is the truth of human sin.
We don’t like to talk about sin very much; it’s gone out of fashion, even in the pulpit. But the fact of the matter is that we are each of us born into a world of broken relationships, of marred human dignity, of bound potential. We each of us grow into that world, shaped by it, and by our own efforts we cannot entirely overcome it, although stories of human courage and strength abound. In our struggle for survival we propagate that brokenness, that fallenness; and our best efforts fall short.
If we look that truth squarely in the face at no other time, surely we can look at it on this day. See our potential for inhumanity summed up for us in this act of brutality in defence of power. Ask ourselves the hard questions about where our own sin plays out.
But there’s another truth on display for us; the truth of divine love.
This is the length God will go to for us. This is how much we are not alone; how much we are not abandoned; how much God has not given up on us. God is able to absorb every bit of our capacity for evil and still have reserves left over to offer us a new beginning.
God is able not just to look our sin squarely in the face, but to bear it in the flesh; in the very human stuff of bones and muscles and nerve endings, and to still hold out the possibility that there might be more to us than this. That we might be worth enduring all of this for.
Two truths; human sin, yes, but also divine love, demonstrated by the God who didn’t hold back from the extremity of death for our sake.
The God who created us, will go to absolutely any lengths to untangle us from the mess we’ve made of it all and create, with us, a new beginning.
John’s gospel uses the word “glory” for the crucifixion. It wasn’t glorious at the time. But in what it accomplished, in what it holds out for us today and until the end of time, there is great glory.
Two truths. Human sin and divine love, both shown in the glory of the cross.
Come, let us worship him.