Community Good Friday Service
Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church (3-25-2016)
Text: John 19:16-19
Title: The WORK of a HAMMER!!
O God, by the Passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life; grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame for the sake of your Son, our, our Savior, Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever…AMEN!
My assignment today is to preach about the hammer…the hammer wielded by a Roman soldier to drive nails into the hands and feet of Jesus of Nazareth…nails which imprisoned the body of Lord to the hardwood of the cross on that hill outside of Jerusalem on that fateful Friday more than 2000 years ago.
I did some preliminary research a couple of weeks ago (actually, while I was on a brief three day Lenten retreat at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, NJ) and I discovered something interesting and surprising…was surprised to discover that there is not a single reference in the 4 Gospel stories of the Passion of our Lord (the stories of Good Friday) that confirms that Jesus of Nazareth was “NAILED TO THE CROSS” on Good Friday…you probably knew that…I did not know that! There isn’t a single reference in the narrative of the Passion of our Lord in the Gospel of John (which we will read this evening in the Good Friday liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer). There is nothing in the Evangelist Luke’s version of the Passion (which we heard last weekend on the Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday). And there is nothing in Matthew or Mark’s version of the story of the Passion of our Lord either (I know, because I checked). Friends, there is not a shred of Biblical evidence in the four New Testament Gospels that confirms that Jesus was “NAILED TO THE CROSS”. In fact some of the earliest artistic depictions of the crucifixion (some dating back to the 2nd century) suggest that Jesus wasn’t nailed to the cross but was tied with rope (which was the most common Roman practice because it prolonged the agony of crucifixion-with victims sometimes hanging naked for days before death mercifully put an end to their suffering).
But, you might say, can more than 2000 years of church tradition…tradition which claims that Jesus wasn’t tied but nailed to the cross, be wrong? Well, actually NO…church tradition is not wrong…Jesus was nailed to that Roman cross, and we know that he was nailed (and not tied) to the cross because of the witness and testimony of the Apostle Thomas…Doubting Thomas.
The Evangelist John (in John 20:24) tells us that Thomas was absent…he was not in the Upper Room on that first Easter evening when Jesus made his first post-Resurrection appearance. And when he returned later in the evening and his brother Apostle’s told him, “WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD” Thomas wasn’t buying it…not for a minute. And he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails and unless I place my fingers in the mark of the nails and unless I place my hands in his wounded side, I’m sorry, but I will never believe. But then, eight days later, Jesus returns and this time Thomas is present and he sees the Lord and he sees the wounds and, miracle of miracles…THOMAS BELIEVES!! it
What a remarkable thing when you think about it …what an amazing and mysterious thing to comprehend…the enormous power of the resurrection defeats the darkness of death and restores life to the physical body of Jesus…but the wounds in his hands and feet and in his side remain. And it is the sight of those wounds…the work of a HAMMER…that makes it possible for Thomas to believe. It is the wounds in the body of the Risen Christ…the work of a HAMMER wielded by a Roman soldier…which provides the connection between the events of Good Friday and the events of Easter Sunday. It is the wounds in the body of the Risen Christ…the work of a HAMMER wielded by a Roman Soldier…an instrument of pain and torture and shameful death, that connects the Jesus of history (the Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine more than 2000 years ago) with the Christ of Faith…your faith and my faith and the faith of millions of believers down thru the centuries…
And it is the wounds in the body of the Risen Christ…the “WORK OF A HAMMER” which remind us of our vocation as disciples and followers of the crucified and risen Christ…our vocation to “take up our crosses daily and follow him in the Way of the Cross. Which is a difficult and demanding way to live…it is not easy to live the cruciformed life (Life lived in the shape of the CROSS) It involves self-giving, sacrificial love…it involves saying NO to self so that we might say YES to God and to the Gospel of Grace. No, the Way of the Cross is never the easiest way…never the most popular way (it never has been and it never will be) but Jesus insists that it is the only way…the ONLY WAY which leads to life and peace…
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain and entered not into glory before he was crucified. Mercifully grant that we, walking in the Way of the cross might find it none other than the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever…