Good Friday, April 6th. Mark 15:33-39

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”  Mark 15:33-39

 

What does it take for someone to come to faith in Jesus?

 

Why does this person – who has some very good reasons not only to doubt but to vigorously deny the existence of God – still believe in the face of all evidence to the contrary?

 

Why does that person – perhaps raised in a loving Christian home, given all the advantages of experiencing a vibrant Christian community, suffering no real pain in life other than the self inflicted type – reject the faith and go there own way?

 

These are very difficult questions to answer.  They aren’t hard to ask.  We ask them and wonder about them all the time.  As a pastor I would love to have a quick, easy and accurate answer to them…but I don’t.  It is a mystery.

 

People who lack faith say some version of “show me real evidence and I might believe”.  People who live by faith say some version of “I’m not sure.  I just know that I believe it.”  Everyone is (seemingly) troubled by the theodicy question – “Why, if there is a kind and loving God at the center of the universe do such horrible things happen to good people?” 

 

I say “seemingly” there because I think there is something else going on, even with that question, because we seem much more troubled when bad things happen to people we love, or when bad things happen to us, than we do about bad things happening in general.  It bothers us most, at least it seems to me, when it hits us close.

 

Which then leads to back to the faith/unfaith mystery.  We could draw a continuum on this question, with “faith” on one end and “unfaith” on the other.  Wouldn’t it be the case that, rather than saying we are “at” a particular place on that continuum, we seem to dance along it, back and forth, as we live our lives?

 

Which then leads to the next question – so what do we do with that?  How does our faith/unfaith affect us?  How does it influence our sense of ourselves and our behaviors toward others?  To what extent do we live out of selfishness and self-centeredness?

 

And that, I believe, is where the rubber hits the road.

 

Today we remember Jesus giving himself into the hands of those who reject him, torture him, humiliate him and crucify him.  He doesn’t protect himself, doesn’t justify himself.  He speaks of forgiveness, of care and concern for others.  He gives voice to the inner torment of abandonment.  He suffers and he dies.

 

What does it take to bring a person to faith?  For a hardened Roman soldier, one who had repeatedly done unspeakably horrific things, it took seeing, with his very eyes, this death of Jesus.  “Truly this man was God’s son.”

 

For me, it takes his witness and the witness of others along the way, fed by daily Word and weekly Sacrament, within the topsy turvy laboratory of Christian community, struggling to surrender and let go of my own self-centeredness. 

 

I believe.  And I believe that God believes in us.  God believes we are worth it.  God believes we are capable of carrying the story of love and hope into a world that crucifies the innocent and seems hell bent on going its own self-centered and self destructive way.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you took our sin, our rejection, our pain, all that is broken, to the cross.  May remembering your death for us guide us in living for others.  May your Spirit draw near to those who have rejected you and keep our hearts soft.  May the broken and rejected ones come to know of your brokenness and acceptance of them.  Jesus, our rock, our redeemer and our hope.  Amen.

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2 Responses to “Good Friday, April 6th. Mark 15:33-39”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for a powerful God Friday message. It is one I will remember for a long time.

  2. Glenda Ferguson Says:

    Thank you, thank you!! What a powerful wonderful message you leave with us this day! Wow, it makes me think there is hope for people I know who live on that continuum near the far end of unfaith.

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