Good Friday 2021

Good Friday 2021

Good Friday (NL Year 3) John B. Valentine
Luke 23:1-56 April 2, 2021



Had there been newspapers in Jerusalem in that year we now call AD 33 .... this would NOT have been the headline you would have seen come tomorrow morning.

Jesus of Nazareth died ...

And when he died that horrible death of crucifixion at the hands of the Roman army .... nobody ... NOBODY ... thought him a hero.

• Nobody was saying that his death had been a splendid victory.
• Nobody was saying it had been a heroic martyrdom.
• Nobody was saying that he’d chosen the better portion.
• Nobody was saying that he’d done the right thing.

His movement ... which had in any case been a pretty motley group of followers ... was over ... finished ... kaput.

And nothing had changed.

Another young leader had been brutally liquidated.

This was the sort of thing Rome did best.

Caesar was on his throne.

And death — as is always the case — had the last word.


+ + + + +

You see ... as Jesus’ first followers looked back on that horrible Friday all these many years ago ... they came up with this claim ... this shocking, scandalous, nonsensical claim ... that Jesus’ death had launched a revolution.

• That something had happened that afternoon that had changed the world.

• That by six o’clock on that dark Friday evening the world was a different place.

Nonsensical or not ... they were proven right.

You see ...

• Whether we believe in Jesus or not ...

• Whether we approve of his teaching or not ...

• Whether we like the look of the movement that still claims to follow him or not ...

We are bound to see his crucifixion as one of the pivotal moments in human history.

• Like the assassination of Julius Caesar around seventy years earlier ... it marks the end of one era and the start of another.

• Like July 4, 1776 ...

• Like December 7, 1941 ...

• Like September 11, 2001 ...

Good Friday marks the end of one era and the start of another.

+ + + + +

But Jesus’ first followers saw it as something more than even that.

They saw it not just as a vital moment in one human’s history ...

Not just as a vital moment in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean ...

But as THE vital moment in the whole entire story of God and the world.

Indeed ... they believed that this Friday we call “Good” opened a new and shocking window onto the meaning of the word “God” itself.

For they believed that with this event the one true God had suddenly and dramatically put into operation his plan for the rescue of the world.


It wasn’t just that they believed Jesus had been raised from the dead.

They did — obviously — believe that and that was scandalous nonsense to people in their day even as it is to people in ours.

But they somehow put it together that his resurrection was not so much an astonishing new beginning in itself as it was the first ramification of what had happened a couple three days earlier.

The resurrection that awaits us come Easter Sunday is the first visible sign that the revolution was already under way.

The first of many signs that would indicate that the revolution was already underway.

An amazingly powerful sign that the revolution was already underway.

But ... we need to be clear ... the revolution began here ... amid Friday’s horrors ... not Sunday’s glories.

+ + + + +

You need a bit of proof that what I’m saying is true?

Consider ... for just a moment ... the most familiar verse in probably the whole of the Bible.

John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son — so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Or think about those words from Philippians which we’ve been using as our Affirmation of Faith throughout this season of Lent:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.

That “therefore” and that “so that” point to the fact that the action that makes all the difference ... for the world and for us ... happens on FRIDAY .... not Sunday.

The earliest Christians were clear ... though sometimes our presuppositions won’t allow us to hear it.

• It was Jesus’ death that made all the difference.
• It was Jesus’ death that made all the difference in the world.
• It was Jesus death that made all the difference TO the world.

For the revolution had begun.

+ + + + +

So as you ponder this story ... as you let the reality of Jesus’ ultimately selfless act work its revolutionary power in you ... consider this.

In John’s telling of the Passion Narrative ... Simon Peter asks Jesus ... “Lord, where are you going?”

To which Jesus answered: “Where I am going, you cannot follow.”

Which ... in turn ... invites Peter’s bold assertion: “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

And then ... finally ... Jesus’ sad yet gentle yet ironic reply: “Will you lay down your life for me, Peter? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

In that one simple encounter ... we hear the resonating undertones of the whole of this day ...

• Of Jesus’ solitary journey into the realm of sin and death and evil for our sakes ...

• Of Jesus’ self-giving love ... an example to be followed so that the world might believe ...

• And of Jesus’ sharply personal challenge ... “Will you do this for me? Look within yourself ... and realize you can’t ... and be thankful that I will do it for you.”


(with significant acknowledgement to and appreciation of author and Bishop N.T Wright and his recent volume "The Day the Revolution Began")

“THE REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with our Good Friday service on April 2, 2021.  The text upon which is is based is the Passion Narrative in the Gospel according to Luke — Luke 22:66 – 23:56