The death that brings change
Luke 22.26-45 (New Revised Standard Version)
The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’
Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief,
This week has seen the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin, as he stands charged with the murder of George Floyd in May of last year. The accounts of the witnesses so far have been harrowing. An 18-year-old trying to shield her young cousin from watching a man die in front of them. A woman prevented from administering possibly life-saving first aid to him. And a man calling the police to report a murder, carried out in front of him, by a policeman.
This death sparked protests across nations, against racial prejudice and persecution, and fuelled the Black Lives Matter campaign. The protests brought hope – that this might be the death that brings about change, rather than just challenging us, as so many have before.
Today is Good Friday, the day we remember the death of Jesus, almost 2000 years ago. We can imagine how the group of people who had followed Jesus would have felt watching him being killed by those in authority, nailed to a cross and taking hours to die.
This was the man who spoke out against prejudice, who chose to spend time with the poor and the marginalised – those whom society shunned – and spoke a message of love and forgiveness to everyone, regardless of their status or skin colour. He even prayed for the forgiveness of those who had caused his death, while he was dying on the cross.
It is through Jesus’ life and death that I am convinced that we need to challenge injustice wherever we see it, standing up for those who are pulled down. Christians believe that this death did, and still does, bring about change, and in dying, Jesus revealed that love will, ultimately, overcome all hatred and suffering.
Jesus commissions his church to be followers of this way, calling us to act justly and love mercy, as he does. His people, you and I, are called, therefore, to be those who bring about change in his name, standing together for change as the body of Christ.
Shining a light on hatred and injustice can be a beacon of hope in the world where those who are victims may feel hopeless. Standing up for change and challenging hatred and injustice can be costly, and involve personal sacrifice.
Church Wigan, together, is a powerful voice in our community, and we need not fear: the cross liberates us from fear. Jesus has paid the ultimate sacrifice, and it allows us to face the sacrifice and challenge of speaking out against hatred and injustice, knowing that Jesus has already drawn out death’s sting with his victory, won through his resurrection.
The cross is a symbol of hope in the midst of a world of death and suffering, a symbol of God who is with us in this world and beyond. Jesus calls us to walk the way of the cross, showing the world in need his way, the way of justice and of peace in this world, offering hope in the present, and hope that will remain for eternity.
look with mercy on this, your family,
for which our Lord Jesus Christ
was content to be betrayed,
and given up into the hands of sinners,
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive, and glorified
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Ordinand in training