“YOU SAY THAT I AM”- True Words from Jesus’ enemies

“YOU SAY THAT I AM”

True Words from Jesus’ enemies

A Liturgy for Good Friday

Needs 8 readers, plus the leader and 9 songs.

Setting : Dark cloth drapes from ceiling, an upright Cross in centre of worship space but not obscuring the screen. Lecturn is behind the cross. Overhead projection of many images of Christ and words of the prayers and songs.

INTRODUCTION To the theme

Leader: There is a long tradition in the church of reading on Good Friday the seven last words of Christ spoken from the cross. Today, there are seven readings from the gospels, but in this celebration, we focus on the words from the enemies of Jesus Christ. We will see there is truth even in their words.

That is why this service is provided today – so that we can all look again into the truth. There are lots of words and pictures and you will have to work quite hard to take some of it in. We will stand and sing songs that carry the theme along bit by bit. If you cant sing, just speak the words.

Today, we take the enemies’ words, so that as you leave here you will know that in your own place, in systems that are set quite hard against the gospel of Jesus, you too can be saved to serve, you too can know an awesome healing Love.

And to the structure of each section.

A bible reading, a leading thought from me, and then two questions – one which helps us to see that we have been sinned against like Jesus, and one which helps us to see that we are sinners who have contributed to his sufferings. Each of these has a response to say together. Your responses are written in yellow on screen. One is in the words of Romans chapter 8: “In order that we may also share in his glory.” The other isin the words of Romans chapter 7: “Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can do it.”. And now let us begin.

CALL TO WORSHIP

From a world that puts a premium on ‘getting and keeping’,

We have come to worship the One who puts a premium on giving.

From a world whose greatest leaders will scarcely give money for the needy,

We worship the Leader who shed his own blood for sinners

#Come, let us worship in humility; let us kneel before Jesus Christ our Lord!

Let us praise the One who dies for us that we might live for God!

Now, the first words from Jesus enemies.

1. IT IS EXPEDIENT – one more compromise

Reader 1- John 11. 47-57

Leader: The leaders of the nation can see Jesus do signs and miracles. The Pharisees and Sadducees are actually talking to each other – a strange alliance of opposing forces.

They both see that many are coming to believe in Jesus, and they fear that things might get out of hand.

They fear reprisals from the occupying Roman army. It has happened before, especially since Pontius Pilate became governor. There have been other Messiahs, all of them quickly and brutally slain by Rome. For this level of fear and this strange kind of alliance to form, it must be that Jesus’ following has become more than a token movement. So, a compromise is struck. But not a passive compromise – it means they now plot to terminate him. Somehow, their words are true. Jesus WILL be the one to die for us all.

Leader: Have you ever been compromised, been attacked by those who should have supported you? …You share the sufferings of Jesus.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you been there when a group of you have taken one more small step in the name of efficient, rational sensible direction, and then found yourself the bringer of sadness?…You caused the sufferings of Jesus.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

Hear the words of the second enemy.

2. DESTROY THIS TEMPLE – twisted words

Reader 2: Matthew 26. 57-63a

Leader: Eventually, two people are found who come forward to the inquest.

They can quote Jesus’ claim to be a construction giant – to destroy thirty years of temple construction and to redo it all in three days. He meant his own flesh, of course, but in this inquest the meaning is irrelevant.

It sounds so ridiculous, yet they treat it as an actual threat, and it is a treasonable offense. It is enough that he speaks against the glorious temple of Jerusalem, the centre of their power. Somehow, their words are true. Jesus is an actual threat. The greater glory and power are His.

Leader:. Have you ever been misunderstood, perhaps your reputation dragged through the mud by questions without fact and suspicions without substance, your words deliberately twisted? You share the sufferings of Jesus.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you mocked the words of Jesus, pretended they were too hard to carry out, too old fashioned to actually struggle to obey, neglected to read the words of eternal life?

You caused the sufferings of Jesus.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

The words of the third enemy.

3. PROPHESY TO US – the offense of Jesus

Reader3: read Matt 26.63b-68, 27.1-2

#Leader: Finally, they want to trick Jesus into condemning himself. And he simply does so. He says quite honestly that he is the anointed one, the Son of God on the earth, and the foretold Son of Man coming from heaven at the Last Judgement. It is enough that he claims it – they never even begin to debate whether it is true or not.

#Frightened by his in-coming, they beat and abuse him. Offended by the way that he opens to God, they taunt him like a meddling prophet.

Their words are true. Jesus speaks from God, and walks with God, and leads us all the way back home.

Leader:. Have you ever been threatened because you pointed out a wrong? Has someone found fault with your faith or conduct, just to cover up for themselves? You share the sufferings of Jesus.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you made excuses for your own sins by saying you are no worse than so and so? Have you stood passively by while others do wrong to someone out of wrongful jealousy?

You caused the sufferings of Jesus.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

The words of the fourth enemy.

4. THE KING OF THE JEWS – the political game

Reader 4: READ Matt 27. 11-14, 22-31, 37

Leader: Already bleeding on body and face from acts of police brutality, Jesus is now accused of treasonable offences in the Roman court. The Romans had sometimes installed their local favourites as king, like King Herod. Sometimes they installed direct rule, like Pontius Pilate.

The charge brought against Jesus – that he claims to be king – is a “winner take all” political game. Pilate is a sneaky manipulator and pretends to be innocent. The crowd is as subtle as a street riot, but pretends to be guilty with his hand-washing theatrics.

Jesus is flogged, the 39 lashes that will strip skin in chunks from his back, and take him to within a millimeter of his life. Somehow, Pilate’s words are true. Jesus is a pawn in the game, and yet it is His purpose in history which somehow rules the events.

Leader:. Have you ever been hurt as the pawn in someone else’s game? you could not explain yourself, because they would not listen? You share the sufferings of Jesus.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you ever passed the blame for Jesus’ sufferings to the Jews, or to some people who are worse behaved than you,? Have you ever stood silently by while the great powers of this world, the powerful leaders of business and government, cause suffering to the innocent, but not to you? You caused the sufferings of Jesus.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

Hear the words of the fifth enemy.

5. HE CANNOT SAVE HIMSELF – intense passions

Reader 5: READ Matt 27.38-44

Leader: They gather around the three crosses, at a safe distance. They throw his own words back at him. It is political theatre, like question time in federal parliament. They take to it with a passion.

“He trusted God. he said he was God’s own Son. Let God deliver him.

He claimed to rebuild the temple in three days, so, do something with a few nails!

If you are the Son of God who came down, come on down!

He claimed to saved others, yet he cannot save himself!”

It is amazing, really, how closely they had observed him. Despite themselves, they knew him.

Beating in Jesus’ breast is another passion. He doesn’t WANT to save HIMSELF. He came down, yes, from heaven, to die. He came down, yes, to a cracked world, to rebuild. He came down, yes, not to deliver himself from the cruel theatre of sin, sickness and corrupt systems, from sorrow and satan, but to encounter them fully, to save us utterly… you, me and our neighbour.

His enemies call out and snigger that if he comes down they will believe in him.

Somehow, their words are true. Jesus HAS come down.

Leader:. Have you ever been through a time of weakness and found you became someone’s target, a target of abuse or a target of their complaints, or a mirror for their anger at something else, just because you were too weak to hit back? You share the sufferings of Jesus.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you observed Jesus, and learned about him, maybe sometimes offered thanks to him, yes, observed him and known him a little, but never bowed the knee in absolute adoration, or never abandoned all to put your trust in his Lordship? You caused the sufferings of Jesus.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

MEDITATION –

Passion: intense suffering of the body

Passion : intense love of the soul

The persecutors of Christ thought that agony could destroy his compassion,

That death could overcome his Love:

A Love that places the welfare of humanity before the letter of the law

A Love that spurns the company of the mighty in order to be one who serves;

A Love that exposes the hypocrisy of the self-righteous;

A Love that forbids revenge and offers forgiveness

A Love that remains obedient unto death,

A Love that trusts God to sustain life where no hope is visible.

This Love is now unquenchable.

The price is paid.

The question is running –

We can go free by following Jesus,

or we can stay how we are.

Hear the words of the sixth enemy

6. WAIT, WILL ELIJAH SAVE HIM – cosmic entertainment

Reader 7: READ Matt 27. 45-51

Leader: It is near the end. An unnatural darkness descends….

Jesus’ breath is getting shorter, fluid is building up against the lungs, physical shock is feeding back into heartbeat, bowel, breathing, brain function. …

Meanwhile his enemies play with his gasping words, applauding at his bottomless misery….

Leader:. Have you ever taken a courageous step of faith, and soon found yourself alone and exposed? Have you stood beside the weak and the needy until you felt in yourself their anger, their frustration, their abandonment? You share in the sufferings of Christ.

In order that we may also share in His glory.

Leader:. Have you ever watched violence just for the thrill? Have you stood back, looked away, while the world’s poor slide further into despair? Have you seen the sacrifices of God’s servants and turned your face or despised or picked fault, instead of moving closer? You caused the sufferings of Christ.

“Is there nothing that can be done for me? Thank God, Jesus can and does.”

Even in death, his seventh enemy still speaks.

7. THIS MAN WAS INNOCENT – truth too late.

Reader 8: READ Luke 23.47-49

Leader: Here on a rocky hilltop, in the smell of a rubbish dump, under a steely sky, hangs a man – breath gone, blood let, dead cold. Below him is an experienced soldier who saw the truth too late. He comes with a long acquaintance with brutality. The bravest and boldest have begged for mercy under his command. But today he utters words that are his memorial – “this man was innocent”.

At last, but too late, someone speaks up for Jesus. It is one word of truth in a down pour of lies, that “Jesus King of the Jews” took the pain and the strain, took the stage, … and commanded it.

BENEDICTION

Leader: We too are like Jesus, for we too have been sinned against. We carry a share of pain in our hearts. We can hold it in regret or remorse or shame or we can let it go and join Jesus on the freedom road, where Love heals and Life springs up again.

We too stand among those who are scandalised, offended, threatened by Jesus – because this particular man claims to be an immense God who has come to walk in the shoes of every person on earth by name. Through one man, in one time, in one place, by one drastic way, he opens the door, so that He can really bring each one of us to the one and only God, the source of all that is good, the one who is Love Eternal.

Leader: Oh Great and Simple God,

It would be easier for us if you had stayed in heaven,

And left us guessing and trying to justify ourselves.

But you came down, and you call us all

to a life of self-denial in the service of others,

a life of self-discovery in worship of you.

Here in this celebration of Christ’s passion and death,

we reach out and grasp again your calling upon our life.

May the cup of suffering and the spite of evil not come to us,

But if it must, then, like Christ, we shall do your will and not our own.

For the cross is our daily load,

Your Love is the source of soaring joy

the pathway to the best life and the deepest soul,

and to all eternity. Through Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord,

Amen.

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