Jesus Is Dead

P. Félix Jiménez Tutor, escolapio.....



By Susan Rusell

The life -the promise- the lights that shone so brightly has been extinguished. All that remains of the Rabbi from Nazareth is a broken body and broken dreams of his scattered followers.

The kingdom he proclaimed did not come. The powerful remain powerful, the oppressed remain oppressed - and where there had been hope there is only despair. This is the stark truth of this day we call Good Friday.

What is there in that message for us tonight?

Let’s be honest: we already know this is not the end of the story. We gather tonight for the Liturgy of Good Friday with Easter dress hanging in our closet, the flowers ordered, the brunch planned and the candy ready to go in the baskets. We’ve peaked at the last chapter to see how the book comes out. We’ve seen this movie before and know that there is a happy ending.

One question is: Can we be present in the reality of Good Friday, knowing that Easter happens?

Another question: Why bother? Couldn’t we just skip Good Friday? Clearly, that’s an option. Look around you. I think I’m safe in saying that there’ll be a few more folks with us on Sunday morning. Folks who go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Day without the Holy Week stuff.

Couldn’t we just skip this part -why dwell on it?

We just heard the story of the crucifixion on Palm Sunday: just like we’ve heard it every year. Can we hear it tonight in a way that isn’t just “the same old thing”?

All of a sudden, Kimmie, one of my daughters who was four, stopped coloring and began to listen to the unfolding story. She’d been in church since before she was born and she’d heard this story many times, even for such a little one. But on this particular day, she was listening like she’d never heard the story before.

When the Gospel got to the words, ”because he was already dead”, she suddenly stood up and said (in a loud, horror-filled voice) “Jesus is DEAD”. They killed Jesus??? And she started to cry in a way that made it clear, this story she’d heard over and over again she had just heard in some very profound way for the first time.

At four years old, she entered into the pain and suffering of the crucifixion event -and in experiencing that pain herself, was changed by it. And, as she was carried out of church inconsolable on her daddy’s shoulder, so were we.

I am baffled by how we can hear these stories of Lent and Holy Week and not be changed by them. Don’t we get it? Who was it that was upset by the Lazarus story? Who was repelled by the teachings of Jesus? Who felt that Jesus was teaching false doctrines? Who wanted this man to go away?

It was the righteous: it was the keepers of the Law. It was the people who knew the rules and knew how to make sure everyone else kept them. How can we hear this story and not be confronted by that? By the sin of the self-righteous in the voices who cried “Hosanna” and turned so quickly to the crowd which cried “Crucify Him”. The crowd got what they asked for.

I don’t want to be part of that crowd. I don’t want you to be part of that crowd. I don’t want the Church to be part of that crowd. But that is the risk we run if we skip Good Friday. If we fast forward to Easter, we avoid confronting in ourselves our own self-righteousness, our own certainties, our own fears. We also avoid being transformed by them.

Faith is what you are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for”. Robert Sahan

Jesus is dead. He came with a willingness to die for the sake of the message that the kingdom of God is at hand. It is here. It is now. He came with a message of inclusiveness and compassion.

For us this evening, it is an invitation to join and be part of the crucifixion story.

Like the disciples who fled from the Garden of Gethsemani, we don’t want a dead rabbi, we want a Risen Lord.

The paradox is that it is precisely because we have already experienced the Resurrection that we can enter into the crucifixion, not just on Good Friday, but wherever and whenever we face the choice between self-righteousness and compassion.

What we have to offer is a faith to die for, not a dogma to kill for. What we have to proclaim is a Gospel that can truly enter into those places of darkness and suffering where compassion is the only gift we have to give.

We are at a crucial point in the symphony that is Holy Week.

Palm Sunday was our overture: touching on all the themes to be played throughout the week and leading us into the subsequent movements. And now we have arrived at Good Friday: in some ways the “adagio” of the piece. In the hours between now and the “allegro” of Easter, we sit in the silence and contemplate the power of this story that is ours.