Do we really want this salvation?

Sermon preached at the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy

Bishop Jones Building, Mission, S.D.

Rosebud Indian Reservation

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

And so we come to this, the day when Jesus suffered and died on the cross.

Those who just a few days before welcomed him into Jerusalem with cries of “Save us, Son of David!” – remember, that is the original meaning of Hosanna – “Save us” – have now decided they don’t want to be saved. At least, not the way Jesus offered to save them … through love and service to one another, through healing and foot-washing, through inclusion instead of exclusion, through praying for enemies and going the extra mile.

No, God’s salvation on earth was not the thing that caught the public imagination, not the way that people wanted to go.

And so they turned from begging to be saved to begging to get rid of the one really good thing they had going in their lives.

The “they” of whom I speak here, I want to be clear, are not the common Jews of the day, who lived lives of oppression and suppression, both from the Roman occupiers and their very own leaders.

No, the “they” of whom I speak are the Jewish leaders themselves, the ones who conspired time and again to get rid of this pesky preacher from Nazareth. They didn’t like the fact that he was upsetting their apple cart, that he challenged their power, that he called them to account for all the things they had done and did and would do that were focused only on keeping themselves in power, and not on caring for God’s beloved children.

They are the ones who incited the people. They are the ones who had Jesus arrested. They are the ones who presented him to Pilate. They are the ones who desperately wanted Jesus gone.

Because they did not want to lose control. They did not want to let loose the reins of authority. They did not want to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, their policy of keeping their heads down and letting the people go hungry, go thirsty, be sold into slavery was wrong on every level known to God.

This particular scriptural recounting of Jesus’ death, the one from John’s Gospel, has been used over the centuries to blame the people for Jesus’ death. And with that blame came the seeming authority to thus blame all Jews for his death. And with that seeming authority came the seeming permission to harass and harm and slaughter the Jews.

All because no one bothered to figure out who “they” were.

But we know who they were, don’t we?

And we know who they are, as well.

Because sometimes, those people are us. Sometimes, we are the ones who don’t want to give up control, who don’t want to let loose the reins of authority, who just want to keep our heads down and if others don’t have enough to eat, or drink, or are sold into the slavery of poverty and addiction, well … that’s the price we sometimes are willing to pay, isn’t it.

Sometimes, we are the ones willing to let a good man die, so that we can be saved from his kind of salvation.

But that salvation, my friends, is not the salvation that God offers us, especially not on this dark day, when Jesus was hanged on the cross in the most painful manner of execution the Romans could apply. An execution that could take hours, or even days. One that frightened whole populaces into obedience, because no one wanted to die that way, and one that frightened the Jews even more, because the Hebrew Scriptures condemn this sort of death.

The salvation that God freely offers us – because of this man’s willingness to die for us – can be summed up in this very manner of death. Love one another, as Jesus loved us. Be willing to live for each other so much that we are willing to die for each other.

It is a tall order, one that seemingly cannot be fulfilled by mere mortals.

But when you break it down, when you look at exactly what Jesus showed us to do, it’s really not that hard after all.

For all we have to do is feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, voice to the voiceless. All we have to do is cure the sick and make the lame leap for joy. All we have to do is include the excluded, touch the untouchables, love the unloved.

Jesus spent his whole ministry showing us how to do that.

And then he died, because he did what he said he would do.

So while the actual doing is not that hard, just remember: It could lead to our deaths.

Because even if we aren’t the ones who are in control, even if we are not the ones who refuse to give up control, there are others out there – a whole world of others out there – who do not want us to carry on Jesus’ mission and ministry in this world.

And those people who do not want us to care for each other, to love one another as Jesus loved us?

They are just as ready to get rid of us as the old leaders in the old days were ready to get rid of Jesus.

So be forewarned: We can cry out to He Who Saves “Save us!” all we want. But if we really want this salvation, if we are really willing to do everything we can to help those in need, to love the unloved, to change the world into a place where there are no unloved, watch out.

Because someone out there is not going to like it.

And that someone might just crucify us as well.

As I asked on Palm Sunday, I ask again tonight:

Do we really want to be saved, in the way that Jesus saves us?

Because that salvation comes with a price.

It cost Jesus his life.

And it could cost us ours as well.

Is this the salvation we want?




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