Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 21, 2005
Do you know - or do you deny Jesus?
The story of what happened on Good Friday continues to happen today. The images of that day live on because the major player of that event happened to be God, who stood in the middle of such chaos, violence, hatred and cruelty as a mirror that reflects to humanity who we are.
On Good Friday, Jesus stood like a mirror reflecting to those around him who they were. He upset those in charge at the courthouse and the Temple. He suggested they were not doing their jobs. He offered himself as a mirror they could see themselves in, and they were so appalled by what they saw, they smashed it. They smashed him, every way they could.
Of the many things this story teaches, one that stands out is that Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion. That has always been a deadly mix.
Beware of those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware of those who cannot tell God's will from their own.
Good Friday is a story that can happen anywhere at any time, and we are as likely to be the perpetrators as the victims.
Who among us will end up playing Annas, Caiaphas or Pilate? They may have been the ones who gave Jesus the death sentence, but a large part of him had already died before they ever got to him - the part Judas killed off, then Peter, then all those who fled. Those are the roles with our names on them - not the enemies but the friends.
Whenever someone famous gets in trouble, his or her friends are one of the first people the press approaches. What do his friends do? Do they support him or do they tell reporters, "Unfortunately, we had seen trouble coming for some time," some friends might say.
One of the worst things a friend can say is what Peter said. "I do not know him." Don't we sometimes do that? Perhaps on a smaller scale and milder way. "Actually, we just worked together for the same company. I mean, not together, just near each other. My desk was near his. I really don't know him at all."
No one knows what Judas said. In John's Gospel he does not say a word, but where he stands says it all. He stands with the militia. Even when Jesus comes forward to identify himself, Judas does not budge. He is on the side with the weapons and the handcuffs, and he intends to stay there.
Perhaps, it was not his own safety that motivated him. Maybe he just fell out of love with Jesus. That happens sometimes. One day you think someone is wonderful and the next day he or she says or does something that makes you think twice.
According to John, Jesus died because he told the truth to everyone he met. He was the truth, a perfect mirror in which people saw themselves in God's own light. Jesus is the truth and will remain the truth.
In the presence of his fierce love for God and for us, our own hardness of heart is revealed. In his presence, people either fall down to worship him or do everything they can to extinguish his light.
A cross and nails are not always necessary. There are a thousand ways to kill him, some of them as obvious as choosing where you will stand when the showdown between the weak and the strong comes along. Others do it subtly by keeping their mouth shut when someone asks, "Do you know him?"
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