Harrowing Of Hell
April 14, 2017

Revolution of Love

Preacher:  The Rev. Kate Wesch

Good Friday
John 18:1-19:42

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

My friend, Hal, used to tell a story about some friends – young parents at the time who were sitting up late talking one night when they heard their young daughter’s voice on the baby monitor. It was clear she had gotten out of bed crept down the dark hallway,
snuck into the nursery and was talking to her new baby brother. They thought it was sweet
and instead of rushing in to keep her from waking the baby, they paused to listen. That’s when they heard their daughter say, “Tell me about Jesus. I’ve nearly forgotten.”

Tell me about Jesus. I’ve nearly forgotten. That’s been my theme this Lent as I’ve intentionally set out on a journey to better know Jesus. It seemed as good a time as any.
I had started reading a book, a good one I’m sure, that had long been sitting on my pile, when 40 pages in, I crammed it back on the shelf. It was all about God which is well and good I suppose, but I’ve been interested in reacquainting myself with Jesus and that book just wasn’t doing it.

Some days, I feel like the little girl who felt compelled to crawl out of bed that night, to walk down the hall to the nursery and say to her baby brother, “Tell me about Jesus. I’ve nearly forgotten.” Maybe you feel that way sometimes too.

How easily we can forget Jesus and this sweet anecdote only points to our innate hunger to know Jesusand be known by him. Your attendance here tonight tells me one thing for sure, probably two things: first, you want me to tell you about Jesus and this being Good Friday, you are likely wondering why did Jesus have to die or what does his death mean for my life?

These are not insignificant questions and they are good ones to ponder this day. Dense theological tomes have been written, centuries of debate, and many of God’s faithful wrestle to make sense of the cross – Bible in one hand and questions in the other.
John’s gospel tells us about Jesus in this way. It’s about the in between, the relationship between God and Jesus and us in which God loved creation so much – enough to give the son, JESUS, so that we who believe should not be lost but should share in the life of God’s new age and that is God’s Kingdom.

You see, the long arc of scripture was leading up and to this point. This, this crucifixion, this death. Jesus on the cross dying for us, for our sins, to redeem the world, was his vocation. Jesus was fulfilling his prophecy. He didn’t like it, but he stepped into it. This was the purpose for which he came into the world. “The Passion” is that Jesus loved us enough to take this on as his vocation.

Jesus didn’t have to enter the political pressure cooker that was Jerusalem at Passover. He could have gone back to Galilee, but he didn’t. He rode into the city on a donkey to the shouts of Hosanna! Jesus didn’t have to be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He could have fled the Garden, but he didn’t. He stayed awake all night praying and waiting after Judas’ betrayal. Jesus didn’t have to take up the cross. He could have escaped, but he didn’t. He took up the cross again, and again, and again.

There are so many could haves in this story, but that’s beside the point because Jesus willfully fulfilled his vocation. He walked into his death believing that “God would use the cross to overthrow all the dark powers that had kept not only Israel, but also the whole human race in captivity” (Wright, 183).

Jesus dying on that cross is not what anyone was expecting, not Mary or Martha or Lazarus; certainly, not his mother or the disciples. It probably even stunned Pilate, the Pharisees, and the Romans to see this supposed “king” die like a common criminal. But as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story, was it?

Maybe it’s not what anyone expected, but it was certainly the more revolutionary act. More revolutionary than a political overthrow of the Roman occupation. That they would have expected. But Jesus didn’t choose that ending. He chose his vocation. Jesus chose the Passion. And when he was hung on that cross, it wasn’t these nails that held him there.
(hold out 2 nails, separately) No. What held Jesus to the cross was his life-giving LOVE for us. (hold up the 2 nails in a cross)

Jesus’ Revolution of Love on the cross changed the world. KINGDOMS COLLAPSED.
We say that every time we pray:
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven

Jesus’ death on the cross ushered in God’s Kingdom – where what God wants to happen always happens the way God wants it to happen. Thy will be done, God, on earth as it is in heaven. Kingdoms Collapsing. This is the Revolution of Love and the reason the world was a fundamentally different place by 6:00 in the afternoon on that first Good Friday.

As N.T. Wright says in his book “Revolution,” the purpose of forgiving sin is to enable people to become fully functioning, fully image-bearing human beings within God’s world,
already here now, and completely in the age to come” (155). This is our vocation. This is our royal priesthood.

So, why did Jesus die on the cross? It was a Revolution of Love that overcame sin and death, thereby collapsing the kingdoms and transforming our lives.

This Revolution of Love matters for our lives, for yours, for mine, because our vocation is to be a royal priesthood, to be image-bearers of Christ in this world.

When we allow ourselves to come close to Jesus, we are changed, we can see things we could never see before, we can do things we could never do before. We are healed. We are made well.

This is what it means for our lives and our communities. We keep going. The story never ends because the Kingdom is right here, so near, closer than skin to bone. And when we’ve nearly forgotten, Jesus breaks into our lives and turns things upside down. You look at a situation with entirely new eyes. You see something in a new way. You can step into new situations or do things you never dreamed possible.

Jesus’ Revolution of Love collapsed kingdoms and changed the world. That is why we are here tonight to venerate a cross, to cry, to wonder, to pray, to marvel in this ancient story that is central to our lives. It ends, it begins again, and repeats.

Tell me about Jesus.