The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r022.htm

s022g16  Good Friday  25/3/2016

‘I find no case against him’   John 18:38, 19:4,6

Preachers often make much of Peter’s three denials in John’s narrative (1) but for the first time I notice that it was ‘Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.’  (2) 

My text for this sermon highlights another thrice repeated statement; three times Pilate acquits Jesus, three times Pilate refuses to ‘draw the sword’ like Peter.

And the exclusive church has often been content to ‘draw the sword’ as she has blithely condemned others to eternal damnation.  So the Creed of St Athanasius begins: ‘Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.’  (3)   Of course, the first real condition for salvation, according to some, is to be straight! :-)

We have to recognise the church’s continuing propensity for judgementalism and division and secular society’s wanting to excuse; wanting to affirm and include.   St Paul recognises this when he writes: ‘When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.   They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness.’  (4)

Of course Peter, after his denials, redeems himself after the resurrection with his triple affirmation of his love for Jesus. (5)   Jesus’ triple command to Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ surely implies more than nourishing a select coterie of disciples while continuing to judge and distance the church from others.  Surely it implies the church needs to be a force for openness and acceptance of others, renouncing the use of spiritual power in an effort to create a society with less division.

The bible regularly uses repeated actions to make the point.   So God inflicts ten plagues on Egypt,  (6) but ten times in the wilderness the wandering tribes test God. (7)  I note that the book of Acts records how time and again the Jews oppose Paul in town after town from Jerusalem to Rome.   We are meant to get the message.   As Paul says of his persecutors (not of gay and lesbian persons): ‘They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.’  (8)

It has been noted that John the evangelist is antisemitic - laying the blame for Jesus’ death squarely with the Jewish leaders of the time.   I have no doubt that his writings have been used to justify the holocaust and continuing antisemitism throughout the centuries. (9)   I would want to say that while the church fails to see Peter’s willingness to take up the sword and his three-fold denial, and to overlook the fact that John has a dim view of the first disciples as well, we will be misusing John to condone antisemitism in particular and continuing divisions in general, ourselves.   We will misuse John to justify ‘christian’ pharisaism and avoid incarnation.

Which makes me wonder how often we expect the civil authorities to legislate according to ‘christian’ principles, such as Sunday trading (10) and to allow churches to discriminate on religious grounds. (11)    These assert some special status for christianity whereas any normal charitable human being would see these as a breach of ‘do unto others ..’  (12)  Obviously I do have a problem with denying workers family time, but to assert that it must be Sunday neglects the fact that some might prefer Saturday or Friday.

Time and again throughout the gospel accounts, it is clear that the disciples do not get the message.   James and John want positions of power and authority in the kingdom (13), Peter doesn’t want Jesus to suffer (14), those in the boat fail to understand the yeast of the Pharisees (15) and in the end all dessert him (16).

And this didn’t miraculously change after the resurrection.   Peter has to be lead by God, step by deliberate step to the house of Cornelius to have the message finally dawn on him of God’s inclusion of others (17).

It is not that John is antisemitic, Jesus is anti-religion when that religion is based on the superiority of the devotees to the exclusion of others and this message is as relevant to the church of today as it was in times past.   To demonise the ancient people of God, or gay and lesbian persons, or Muslims is implicitly to fail to see the sanctified selfishness inherent in this demonisation.

If ‘no one comes to the Father but by me’ (18) implies God approves of my personal sanctified selfishness rather than someone else’s sanctified selfishness, this implies a God who is arbitrarily partial and prejudiced; conveniently justifying my own partiality, my own prejudices.

Jesus was crucified not because God willed it or because Jesus wanted people to worship him, but because of human sanctified selfishness, and sanctified selfishness effectively crucifies again the son of God by and for those who hold to this.


1.  John 18:17,25 and 27
2.  John 18:10
3.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed
4.  Roman 2:14-15
5.  John 21:15,16,17
6.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt
7.  Numbers 14:20-23
8.  Romans 1:32
9.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_and_the_New_Testament
10.  https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/11-march/news/uk/mps-vote-down-government-s-attempt-to-loosen-sunday-trading-laws
11.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-27/move-to-allow-schools-to-discriminate-on-religious-grounds/6500006
12.  Matthew 7:12
13.  Matthew 20:21
14.  Matthew 16:22
15.  Matthew 16:6
16.  Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50
17.  Acts 9:32-10:48
18.  John 14:6

The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r022.htm

s022g16  Good Friday  25/3/2016

‘I find no case against him’   John 18:38, 19:4,6

Preachers often make much of Peter’s three denials in John’s narrative (1) but for the first time I notice that it was ‘Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear.’  (2) 

My text for this sermon highlights another thrice repeated statement; three times Pilate acquits Jesus, three times Pilate refuses to ‘draw the sword’ like Peter.

And the exclusive church has often been content to ‘draw the sword’ as she has blithely condemned others to eternal damnation.  So the Creed of St Athanasius begins: ‘Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.’  (3)   Of course, the first real condition for salvation, according to some, is to be straight! :-)

We have to recognise the church’s continuing propensity for judgementalism and division and secular society’s wanting to excuse; wanting to affirm and include.   St Paul recognises this when he writes: ‘When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.   They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness.’  (4)

Of course Peter, after his denials, redeems himself after the resurrection with his triple affirmation of his love for Jesus. (5)   Jesus’ triple command to Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ surely implies more than nourishing a select coterie of disciples while continuing to judge and distance the church from others.  Surely it implies the church needs to be a force for openness and acceptance of others, renouncing the use of spiritual power in an effort to create a society with less division.

The bible regularly uses repeated actions to make the point.   So God inflicts ten plagues on Egypt,  (6) but ten times in the wilderness the wandering tribes test God. (7)  I note that the book of Acts records how time and again the Jews oppose Paul in town after town from Jerusalem to Rome.   We are meant to get the message.   As Paul says of his persecutors (not of gay and lesbian persons): ‘They know God’s decree, that those who practise such things deserve to die — yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practise them.’  (8)

It has been noted that John the evangelist is antisemitic - laying the blame for Jesus’ death squarely with the Jewish leaders of the time.   I have no doubt that his writings have been used to justify the holocaust and continuing antisemitism throughout the centuries. (9)   I would want to say that while the church fails to see Peter’s willingness to take up the sword and his three-fold denial, and to overlook the fact that John has a dim view of the first disciples as well, we will be misusing John to condone antisemitism in particular and continuing divisions in general, ourselves.   We will misuse John to justify ‘christian’ pharisaism and avoid incarnation.

Which makes me wonder how often we expect the civil authorities to legislate according to ‘christian’ principles, such as Sunday trading (10) and to allow churches to discriminate on religious grounds. (11)    These assert some special status for christianity whereas any normal charitable human being would see these as a breach of ‘do unto others ..’  (12)  Obviously I do have a problem with denying workers family time, but to assert that it must be Sunday neglects the fact that some might prefer Saturday or Friday.

Time and again throughout the gospel accounts, it is clear that the disciples do not get the message.   James and John want positions of power and authority in the kingdom (13), Peter doesn’t want Jesus to suffer (14), those in the boat fail to understand the yeast of the Pharisees (15) and in the end all dessert him (16).

And this didn’t miraculously change after the resurrection.   Peter has to be lead by God, step by deliberate step to the house of Cornelius to have the message finally dawn on him of God’s inclusion of others (17).

It is not that John is antisemitic, Jesus is anti-religion when that religion is based on the superiority of the devotees to the exclusion of others and this message is as relevant to the church of today as it was in times past.   To demonise the ancient people of God, or gay and lesbian persons, or Muslims is implicitly to fail to see the sanctified selfishness inherent in this demonisation.

If ‘no one comes to the Father but by me’ (18) implies God approves of my personal sanctified selfishness rather than someone else’s sanctified selfishness, this implies a God who is arbitrarily partial and prejudiced; conveniently justifying my own partiality, my own prejudices.

Jesus was crucified not because God willed it or because Jesus wanted people to worship him, but because of human sanctified selfishness, and sanctified selfishness effectively crucifies again the son of God by and for those who hold to this.


1.  John 18:17,25 and 27
2.  John 18:10
3.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed
4.  Roman 2:14-15
5.  John 21:15,16,17
6.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt
7.  Numbers 14:20-23
8.  Romans 1:32
9.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_and_the_New_Testament
10.  https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/11-march/news/uk/mps-vote-down-government-s-attempt-to-loosen-sunday-trading-laws
11.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-27/move-to-allow-schools-to-discriminate-on-religious-grounds/6500006
12.  Matthew 7:12
13.  Matthew 20:21
14.  Matthew 16:22
15.  Matthew 16:6
16.  Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50
17.  Acts 9:32-10:48
18.  John 14:6