A sermon for Good Friday; Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42
My first thoughts for today’s reflections on John’s account of Jesus’ Passion was to build on Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. I have done so in the past; however, I have so carefully put those notes away, I can’t find where in 15 years of folders those notes are. What’s a preacher to do? Listen, be still and know that God is God and provides.
The first thing that was given to me was reading about Makato putting a 400-year-old Kintsugi bowl in David’s hands. As old as it is, its most special feature is that somewhere along the way the bowl was broken into shards and glued back together using an ancient technique involving gold dust and lacquer. The golden veins add mystic beauty so that the bowl exceeds its original grandeur. The golden veins add a depth of dimension; ~ you intuit the bowls original form and life; ~ you sense the rupture that shattered its life and form; ~ you are drawn to how it is so beautifully healed, brought to a wholeness that exceeds its original beauty and life (Brooks).
It wasn’t much longer when I read a commentary by Whitney Rice which presented a vision I’ve never explored before. She notes that in the Passion story we see both the desire to follow Jesus, and the fear that leads followers to deny Jesus (Rice). My character set is different, but the revelation is hers.
Let’s begin with Peter. We are familiar with his denial of Jesus. We all have heard, and I have preached, to explore our inner selves in search of our ways that lead us to similar denials. However, we should not overlook Peter’s commitment. Earlier he says
Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you (John 13:37).
Peter’s pledge varies in intensity in each Gospel account, but we should not discount his sincerity, he means it. Rice ponders if Peter is trying to stand out in the crowd. It is possible, even probable, Peter is known for making impetuous statements, not carefully thought out, in which he stands out in the crowd. In the garden, Peter’s sincerity is evident, when the police and soldier approach he draws his sword and attacks one of the servants, or the high priest’s the servant gets in his way (John 18:10). Either way, Peter’s action is a sign of his commitment, Romans are not known for their patience with armed insurrection. It is the slave’s presence at this event that leads to Peter’s third denial (John 18:23). There is no question Peter is a mixture of commitment and denial. He relationship with Jesus is complex. Peter proclaims Jesus to be the Holy One of God (John 6:69), he swears he will give his life for Jesus’ life, and he means it. That is the completeness of Peter’s life. But as we know, in the courtyard of the High Priest Peter denies Jesus 3 times. The wholeness of his life lies in broken shards on the courtyard paving-stones.
The other examples of complex relationships with Jesus are Joseph of Arrhythmia and Nicodemus. Both men are powerful, members of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s religious and political ruling body. Once, Nicodemus takes a stand for Jesus in a debate saying,
Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it? (John 7:51).
Joseph is courageous in approaching Pilate to get Jesus body for burial. In doing so he reveals his allegiance to this innocent troublesome rabbi. In these ways, both men show their commitment to Jesus. However, neither man speaks in Jesus defense or makes an effort to constrain the abuse of political and religious power by the High Priest or the Sanhedrin. Like Peter, both are committed to Jesus; and both deny Jesus. Their thundering silence breaks the wholeness of their lives, the shards lay scattered across the Temple grounds.
The golden dust of the Spirit inspires Joseph and Nicodemus to risk asking Pilate for Jesus’ body so he can be buried properly. Unknowingly they set the Easter stage by laying his body in the tomb. The golden dust of the Spirit inspires Peter, a story to be revealed in the weeks to come. Just as gold dust and lacquer restore the whole of a broken bowl into glory beyond its original form, so gold and lacquer, of the Spirit restore the broken lives of Peter, Nicodemus, and Joseph into glory beyond their original forms.
Typically, on Good Friday I am encouraging myself and you to take an honest look at our lives and acknowledge at least one way we have denied Jesus. The story of Kintsugi bowls and Rice’s observation of the complex commitment and denials of Jesus in the lives of his followers weave a complex artistry that takes some lengthy pondering (Brooks). In time, and in varying ways, how our lives are similar to Kintsugi bowls will be revealed. And yes, this is an Easterish gleaning. However, it is also a Lenten, a Good Friday reminder, to commit the time to seek the Kintsugi in everyone one we meet. We are all broken, that is easy to see. It is a failure to be like Jesus not to seek the divine gold-dust and lacquer that remakes all of God’s people, more glorious than either we or they can perceive.
It is Good Friday. The shards of your lives lay scattered across the sands of times. The darkness hovers, it is an opportune time. Can you, will you, believe in healing Spirit’s gold dust and lacquer? Will you trust the potter’s hands of the healing Spirit in the remaking of Kintsugi lives? Yours? And others?
Biasdell, Machrina. What’s the Question?, Epiphany 4 (B). 28 1 2018. <http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/>.
Boring, M. Eugene. New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary The Gospel of Matthew. Vol. VII. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. XII vols. App Olivetree.
Brooks, David. Longing for an Internet Cleanse. 27 3 2019. <nytimes.com/2019/03/28/opinion/internet-cleanse.html>.
Lewis, Karoline. “Dear Working Preacher Betweenness.” 23 4 2017. Working Preacher.
Rice, Whitney. “The Rock and the Handmaiden, Good Friday.” 19 4 2019. Sermons that Work.
Trozzo, Lindsey. Commentary on John 18:1-19:42. 19 4/ 2019. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/>.