Why did the ‘Iudaioi’ try to kill Jesus?

Why would hoi Iudaioi (translated as “the Jews”) want to kill Jesus? (John 5.18)

Posted: 16 Mar 2013 05:37 AM PDT

18 This was why hoi Ioudaioi were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he “breaking” the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

(Please, make sure to read this post in the context of the overall study – you can find it here. Especially, the sections covered in John 5.2-17).

How can their strong negative language, expressing their intent to kill him, be explained? We read that hoi Ioudaioi (normally and incorrectly translated simply as “the Jews”) sought to kill Jesus (vs.18). It is known that in the vast majority of premeditated murder cases, the actions of the murderer were based on feelings of anger that eventually led to the murder itself. This is probably why Jesus taught that in some way anger towards a fellow human is the same as actual murder.

When people become (and stay very) angry for a long period of time they often cannot bear the heavy burden of their anger. They seek to take some action that will satisfy and nullify the anger that causes them so much emotional pain. They must end the pain that their own anger causes them. The stronger the anger; the stronger is the desire to end it. In the absence of a better way, people resort to evil actions such as violence and even murder.

The issue was not that Jesus did not abide by the Sabbath-keeping rulings of hoi Ioudaioi. Judaism in the time of Jesus was not monolithic. It is probably better to speak in terms of many Judaisms rather than one, given the wide variety of Jewish observance practices and scriptural interpretation that existed at that time. Only in the 5th – 7th centuries C.E. can we speak of Jewish rabbinic leadership solidifying its authority over the Jewish community. The rabbis were engaged in setting forth an authoritative corpus of rabbinic literature that would determine the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament for the rest of the Jewish community for centuries to come. They did very much succeed, but only centuries later.

Incidentally, the word in Greek translated here as “breaking” the Sabbath does not need to be translated this way. It is equally possible to speak of Jesus “setting the Sabbath free.” It is not that the author of John thought Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. He in fact was persuaded that Jesus could not break the command of his own, so by definition, Jesus could not be everything John said he was and at the same time to be a Sabbath-breaker. But, in John’s story, hoi Iudaioi accused him of breaking the Sabbath. Because they were seeking to discredit him in the eyes of the people whose heart-allegiance they did not possess and whose rebellion they still feared.

Jesus’ very presence (His person) as well as his teachings (His words) and his miracles (His deeds) were spelling trouble for the Jerusalem Temple elite and others who fed off the same budget and status. Jesus was gaining more and more popular following. He was performing miracles and giving prophetic speeches almost exclusively outside of Judea, (the headquarters of hoi Ioudaioi) where, for the most part, he was accepted and honored. He, as a matter of principle, did not respond to their requests to submit to their authority. He was rightly perceived by them to be a real threat; but most importantly, he was a threat to their personal status and their personal financial resources that were associated with the Jerusalem Temple.

In the chapter 5, however, the anger and plans to kill Jesus are only beginning. They pick up when Jesus will cross the red line of the patience and tolerance of the hoi Ioudaioi. The final threat of Jesus to the hoi Ioudaioi leadership will be his most spectacular miracle – the resurrection of the well-known and respected member of the hoi Ioudaioi, a man named Eliezar. (We know him as Lazarus.)

We read in a later portion of the Gospel that Jesus’ coming to Bethany (very near Jerusalem) and resurrecting Lazarus resulted in two significant events. Many members of hoi Ioudaioi placed their faith in Jesus. As a result, an emergency meeting of the top level of the leadership was called. In John 11:47-48, we read: “… the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

We will look at this story in detail when we get to chapter 11, but for now, it is clear that the accusations of hoi Ioudaioi in chapter 5 did not have to do with Jesus’ seemingly “liberal” Sabbath observance, but with his person, words and deeds.

It is not that his claims to be the Son of Man/Logos of God did not have a place in Judaisms of the time, but simply that Jesus was not allowed to take that place. Stop and think about it again. It was not because “divine Messiah” claim did not fit “the Jewish” thinking spectrum (see the links), it was precisely because it did. That was the problem!

The Jerusalem leaders did the math. If things continue “as is,” Jesus would surely have put them out of a job with his prophetic speeches that were validated by his great miracles. In the next sections we will see how Jesus’ roles will merge two normally separate concepts, the Son of God and the Son of Man. We will consider John 5.19-30 in its ancient literary and poetic context. I think you will be amazed!

© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

As you can see this commentary is in process of being written. It gets better and better when participants comment. So if you have a question or a comment, post it on the site. To see all previous material click here “Samaritan-Jewish Commentary”. To receive more information about learning Biblical Languages (Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic) with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem/eTeacher Biblical program online at affordable cost, please, click here.

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NAMELESS GREEKS and A NEW COVENANT

NAMELESS GREEKS and A NEW COVENANT

By Ian Robinson

Readings:

Jer 31.31-34

Heb 5.5-10

Jn 12.20-33

Who were these nameless Greeks who made Jesus swoon so? They were visitors in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, milling and shoving in the crowds, whistling at the stories of capital city politics, doing what they’re told by all the police – the build up of excitement is palpable, but they come around the corner and go first to Philip and ask to see Jesus.

For Jesus, it is as though the clock started to strike twelve. The booming voice from the sky confirms it. “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”(v 23).

What Jesus sees happening had been coming for a long time. This moment has always been in God’s plan.

Since the void was shattered by the explosive migth of God’s “let their be light”, 13.7 billion years of creation has been heading towards this moment. Since humans emerged and decided immediately to take all God’s gifts and rebel thanklessly against God’s promises and hide from God’s presence, 100 thousand migrations had seen the plan progressing.

Since an old Aramaean opened his mind to hear God afresh and heard a promise that through him ‘all the nations of the earth would be blessed’, two thousand years of promise had been building in the minds of men and women.

Since Moses ducked the lightning on Mt Sinai and heard the words and since he wept with God for the people’s fickle fast stupid callous brazen rebelliousness, the word of the Old Covenant has been repeated and translated.

The prophet Jeremiah was caught in the act of upsetting all the religious people who thought they had God sown up in their church. But God lamented their attitude with an unfathomable personal pain: ‘I was your husband’, God said – you were my bride and and you betrayed me!…..I was your husband! – (Chapt 31.31-34)

Jesus sees the promise, 700 years out of Jeremiah, emerging from around a corner. God will give a new covenant not like the old – because our hearts are so hard. No longer trapped in our ethnic box or our religious box – a covenant for all the world to know and a covenant of full and free forgiveness. Its about what’s in our hearts not what’s in our heads. It’s about where we’re going, not how good we are.

People can believe in God so clearly and ever so cleverly but not ever tasted God within. People can cling to church, or cling to their rejection of church, when Jeremiah says that that is exactly what they should be letting go of.

With the one mind you have to think with, with the one frail beating heart you have to live by, with the only pair of hands you have to hold on to what really matters – hang on to the new covenant, and not the old ways.

Jesus sees that the fierce grief-struck the jilted God, the cheated husband of the Bride, is now about to become a happy man again. Jesus is just SO happy to see these Greeks. It’s not because he likes souvlaki, or balalaika, or good old Greek smart-thinking. He had no relatives in Athens or Melbourne. …

Jesus can hear the New Covenant stepping closer. It’s here now for we Christians, but at the time it was just coming in. The New Covenant within the heart – is what makes us love God, listen to God, obey and serve, seek and find.

The Spirit is ours who makes us to taste and see, argue and cherish, repent and be cleansed.

Healing is ours for bitter memories, torn souls, jumpy egos, veils of shame, and even sometimes for sick bodies.

Salvation is ours that softens our hearts, opens our minds, swells our hearts in worship, stills our fear in trouble, draws us up to face the moments of accountability.

Jesus can see it. At that moment Jesus says what he sees: “Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up, + will draw all people = to myself.” ( v 31-32) And these Greeks are the first instalment of this worldwide explosion of love.

It’s happening. So now the other part – the ‘lifted up’ part – must happen to.

“ Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

He is talking about himself. He is talking about you… and me.

He knows he will be strung up to face all the evil the world has to offer – its contrived sincerity, its crushing political machinery, its brutal torture and naked mockery, abandoned by friends with a ministry that will seem still-born. On that cross he will go down every dark passage of our minds, every horror of our history, and will take on all the personal stupidity we have to offer, and embrace them, into his heart, and…. love us.

AND there is more. He knows that he will spring to new life and set us free to follow him on our path. So, my question to us all is, how are you following today?

It’s a question about where you are going rather than how you are feeling. Some of us are at a point of decision in our personal life or in our faith and church life – What do I/we have to die to at the moment? What good things can not be taken in to the future?

Be sure of this: When a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it bears much fruit.

If that question is too hard, you need to hear this one. Have you actually got the message on why the Greeks came from so far away to see Jesus? Have you seen what they saw?

It wasn’t for his good looks or to buy his books. Hebrews 5.5-10 describes Jesus in a very Jewish way. (read) It is just one of many and various descriptions of Jesus, perhaps “celebrations” of Jesus in Hebrews. What picture of Jesus does it paint?

Firstly, Jesus is no accident of history, no Jewish phenomenon, he was not self-appointed. Jesus is God-ordained and God-begotten. The “Melchizidek” idea is to say Jesus surpasses the Jewish history, and surpasses both fate and chance, because the original M. served the most high god in Abraham’s time. That’s more than a thousand years before “Jewish” hit the press, or the Da Vinci Code or Bp Jack Spong or Phillip Adams. Jesus is ordained of God for any in the whole world who seeks the most high God. Forever and for all.

That’s why the Greeks know they can come. That’s why Phillip and Andrew are only too pleased to befriend them in evangelism. Is that what our neighbours know? Is that what pleases you?

But again, the knew THAT they could come, but WHY did they come to see Jesus? The signs (miracles) point to him but that’s all they do. People seemed to open to Jesus but also close to him, on the basis of the signs.

What attracted them, motivated them, changed them?

The picture in Hebrews 5 tells us that Jesus knew how to serve God while here on earth – v 7-8. You serve God on earth don’t you, that is if you’re not dead yet – so you do this don’t you?

By what actions did Jesus serve God, according to Hebrews?

He offered up prayers. He offered up earnest prayer. Do you do that? He knew how to pray for the lost with loud cries and tears. Have you learned to do that? He agonized about his decisions and keeping in the centre of God’s will. Did you know that sweet agony was normal for us all? He went beyond thinking about what God CAN do and knew what God WILL do here and now.

And not just actions but attitudes –

He faced everything he was about to suffer and lose and risk and throw away so that the glory of God could be seen in his small simple solitary son of man life. Is that how you leave church on Sunday? He sought “reverent submission” to God, that blessed soft strong responsiveness of one human heart to the heart of God, even though he was the royal son. Are you “reverent” – is that how you listen to others and read the Bible? He learned obedience, that self-control that marches to the beat of God’s drum despite all the others around us who are calling the tune? What particular obedience have you been learning lately?

All this showed in Jesus’ life.

  • His prayer was heard.(v7). That’s where the faith miracles came from.
  • He came into his purpose (v 9a). That’s where those words resonated from.
  • He became a source – not just the receiver – of blessing. (v9b). That’s where the love flowed from. That’s what I really want in my life.

And Scripture tells us that because of that kind of “reverence”, not the churchy kind, because of that kind of “prayer”, not the wordy fleeting kind, “eternal salvation” it says has spilled everywhere, like gold from a sunset.

This man of tender healing hands and fierce loving heart is someone you could travel a long way for. This salvation, if you only saw it, is something you could gladly sell all your gold for if only to be part of spreading around eternal salvation like gold from a sunset.

This morning, do you see Jesus? Do you see the looming promise that Jesus saw, stepping explosively into your life? Is that what you want? Can you make it your heart’s desire? Pray with me.

God of the Covenant,

You came for ever and for all, the source of eternal salvation for all who come and se and learn to obey.

You have not left us to wonder

and wander around the endless streets of the worlds religions.

Though sometimes it seems the easiest way,

it leaves hearts cold.

Nor have you placed us inside the package of church.

We welcome Your New Covenant to reach below the skin,

below the traditions and structures,

below the thoughts that control and limit.

We welcome Your Spirit to reach into our very heart,

to heal and save, and to take our whole lives over,

to sell us up and move us on with joy.

We love you, Jesus.

We are here with you, Jesus.

We are on the road with you,

come what may,

learning your prayer and obedience,

learning your reverent submission,

living in your grace.

Amen.

“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.

“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.

A Liturgy for Easter Sunday

A Liturgy for Easter Sunday

Four readers, one prayer, one 5 min sermon, 7 songs, leader. Everything white.

prepared by Ian Robinson

Leader: “Christ is Risen”

Response: “He is Risen indeed”

READING 1. IT IS SUNRISE Mark 16.1-8

Leader: These women came to the first Easter Sunday morning filled with disappointment in their lives. All they have left to work for is to carry out a decent burial.

On this Easter morning, are you pre-occupied with disappointment? Is this the best you can do with your life – to keep a decent, respectable life? You could do worse, but the promise of Easter is that you can actually have God’s purpose working in your life.

You can be holy. The Risen Christ has a new beginning for you. It’s no wonder the women’s first thought was how scary it could be.

READING 2. THE TOMB IS EMPTY Luke 24.1-12

Leader: At this stage of events, they are only afraid. They are afraid of two things.

One is that their enemies have stopped at nothing to suppress Jesus’ movement. They are afraid they will be the next to be arrested, flogged and crucified. At least two of them leave town immediately. Jesus had to catch up with them in a town called Emmaus.

Maybe they are also afraid that Jesus might actually have risen from the dead, as they heard the angels say. It is such a shining hope, so much would then be different, and that alone would be very scary. No wonder the Risen Jesus kept greeting them with: ‘peace be with you’.

Remember the goodness of God. Remember the kindness of Jesus. He has never brought harm to anyone who placed their trust in him. Peace be with you.

READING 3. JESUS APPEARS Luke 24.36-44

Leader: There he is in the flesh. It changes everything. There are huge possibilities that open up now. Walking with Jesus in freedom from sin. A new life, a new vision. Forgiveness and love both given and received. Finding self in serving others. Making peace with justice. Integrity and generosity that counts for all eternity. Personal communion with a living God. What richness he has lavished on us in Jesus Christ!

SERMON

To be honest, Easter is not all about huge possibilities that open up. There are also some possibilities that it closes down.

If you like to be the victim, the tragic, the hero, the bitter fighter, then with the resurrection of Jesus your whole life is shattered. With Jesus leading us beyond death, we need no longer get so bitter about death and suffering.

Again, if you like to accumulate experiences, accumulate money and securities, live on overdrive, fly off on sex or drugs, then the new life of Jesus has shown up your emptiness. With an eternity to live, we need no longer rush to fit in every good thing we can get.

Again, if your focus is ‘me’, what about me, what’s in it for me, what I want, where I’m going, do it my way, the empty tomb shows how fearful we really are to be embraced by life. We are no longer our own – we have been bought with a price and held beyond death! To live the new life we have to stop reinforcing the defences of the present one.

Yes, there is some bad news for some. But I find that it’s good news, the happiest news of all time. I know I haven’t got it all sorted, but as I walk the road with Jesus, the light from the empty tomb is just simply fantastic, worth living for, and worth dying for.

Amen

Prayer 1

Because you have saved us so openly and so strongly,

We are confident to bring to you

all our disappointments.

We bring to you our narrow thinking.

May your Kingdom-purposes be seen in us.

Because you have loved us so completely,

We can bring to you our fears and pain.

We bring our doubt- that you might give us less than the best.

We welcome the New Life

That you have pioneered for us.

Because you have conquered death,

We can put aside the fear of suffering,

and the bitter sting of death.

Gently, please, take apart our inner defences, and set us free.

Open up new spaces inside our hearts,

Space for being loved, being safe,

being clean, being true, and

spaces for integrity, generosity, kindness, and peace.

READING 4. JESUS SAYS ‘HANG ON A SEC’ Luke 24.45-53

Leader: The power to live the New Life does not come just by wanting it, choosing it, training it, being born with it, or seeing it in someone else. The power comes through the Holy Spirit, whom we must welcome into our life.

BENEDICTION

Because you walk with us, Jesus,

and show us freedom from failure,

We can give and receive

both forgiveness and love.

We can find ourselves in serving others.

We can make peace with justice.

We can know, more deep than breathing,

this personal connection with the living God.

Oh, the riches of the love

which you have lavished on us in Jesus Christ!

So, shock us into life!

Nurture us into love!

And impel us with your grace

To share again and again, in myriad ways,

That vast good news: Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

Hallelujah! Amen.