The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r022.htm
s022g12 Good Friday 6/4/2012
'They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid
ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.'
I vividly recall many years ago getting out of my car to go to a
meeting in the church office on the other side of the road to the
cathedral. As I walked along a man walking in the
opposite direction stopped me and asked if I was one of 'them' -
indicating the cathedral across the road. It was at the
time when there was some media hype about clergy sexual abuse, and
so I wondered what was coming. While I wasn't one of the
cathedral clergy, I said that yes I was one of them. He
then went on to say how he had just heard that he didn't have
testicular cancer and he was just so grateful. Whereas I
was preparing myself to duck to avoid a left hook, here he was
brimming with gratitude to whatever God because of the good news he
had just received. His telling me was his way of telling
God. He didn't want to linger or detain me, just tell
me, and we both went on our way rejoicing.
As I read the passion according to St John again, I was startled to
realise how much too-ing and fro-ing Pilate did. By my
count he went in and out 5 times. In verse 29 Pilate goes out
to question Jesus' accusers, then again in verse 38 after his
discussion about kinship and truth, then in verse 19.4 after
offering them Barabbas and having Jesus flogged. He must
have gone out after the discussion about where Jesus was from for he
again tries to free Jesus in verse 12, and finally he goes outside
again to pass judgement. Pilate really was between a
rock and a hard place.
It has been traditional to note John's anti-semitism in this
context, and there is no doubt that there is a good deal of evidence
for that. However John does repeat things to make a point in
other places, and the place I want to put beside this is Peter's
three-fold denial of Jesus, predicted in 13.38 and enacted in
18.17,25 & 27. Like I was unnecessarily apprehensive
as to why the man on the street wanted to know if I was 'one of
them', Peter may well have been unnecessarily reticent about
admitting to his following Jesus. Those who questioned
Peter may have wanted to console him or to get a first hand account
of who Jesus was.
So also I want to point out that Pilate - the symbol of all that is
profane - seeks to free Jesus, whereas Peter - the 'rock' on which
Jesus was going to build his church, is in denial. Our
'faith' is no guarantee that we are on the right path.
Peter actually doesn't totally desert Jesus, he is just outside,
warming himself, but still exposing himself to inconvenient
Jesus enters into the place of full ritual defilement, into the
entirely secular. The orthodox and the devout stay well
away. Peter is just outside. And the
question is for us too: do we cherish our orthodoxy and devotion and
not enter the secular and so avoid ritual defilement, or do we, like
Peter, wish we had the guts to enter the secular and be with Jesus?
For the promise of Jesus is not that we will enter nirvana or
wherever, but that we will enter fully into the secular world around
us, where we will be welcomed, not derided; where we will be
defended from the howls and screams of the orthodox and the devout
until they have their way. Jesus was actually safer in
the protection of Pilate than he was in the midst of the orthodox
and the devout, and I suspect this is as true just as much now as
then, in the midst of 'christian' orthodox and devout, even as they
are chanting the name of Jesus.
The real passover is enacted, not in the midst of the orthodox and
the devout, but in the very epitome of the secular and the
profane. I am glad I am not part of a church that has a
service of Holy Communion on Good Friday - which speaks to me of how
exclusive the Communion has become - how much of it is about
orthodoxy and devotion rather than incarnation into, and blessing
of, the profane.
So for me it is sad that John is accused of anti-semitism, when he
is really pro incarnation, denied as often by orthodox and devout
‘christians’ as by the orthodox and devout of his day.
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