Good Friday and Easter B

Sermons for Good Friday and Easter

John 18 : 1-19:42 - "Good Friday: The Three Crosses"
John 20:1-9 - "Why I Believe in The Resurrection"
Mark 16:1-8 - "Be Hatched or Go Bad" by Leonard Sweet


The Three Crosses
The Cross. It struck fear in the hearts of the world. It was Rome's means of controlling the people. According to Roman custom, the penalty of crucifixion was always preceded by scourging; after this preliminary punishment, the condemned person had to carry the cross, or at least the transverse beam of it, to the place of execution, exposed to the jibes and insults of the people. On arrival at the place of execution the cross was uplifted. Soon the sufferer, entirely naked, was bound to it with cords. He was then, fastened with four nails to the wood of the cross. Finally, a placard called the titulus bearing the name of the condemned man and his sentence, was placed at the top of the cross. Slaves were crucified outside of Rome in a place called Sessorium, beyond the Esquiline Gate; their execution was entrusted to the carnifex servorum (the place of the hangman). Eventually this wretched locality became a forest of crosses, while the bodies of the victims were the pray of vultures and other rapacious birds. It often happened that the condemned man did not die of hunger or thirst, but lingered on the cross for several days. To shorten his punishment therefore, and lessen his terrible sufferings, his legs were sometimes broken. This custom, exceptional among the Romans, was common with the Jews. In this way it was possible to take down the corpse on the very evening of the execution. Among the Romans, though, the corpse could not be taken down, unless such removal had been specially authorized in the sentence of death. The corpse might also be buried if the sentence permitted. It is remarkable that all of this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified Him." (Mark 15:24).

It is interesting that Jesus is responsible for the abolishment of the cross as a means of capital punishment. In the early part of the fourth century Constantine continued to inflict the penalty of the cross on slaves guilty of, in the old Latin, delatio domini, i.e. of denouncing their masters. But later on he abolished this infamous punishment, in memory and in honor of the Passion of the Christ. From then on, this punishment was very rarely inflicted and finally the practice faded into history. But, oh, how history has remembered.

As the week of Jesus' Passion now closes, it is well for us to reflect upon the cross. Martin Luther said, "Man must always have a cross." Jesus said: Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." Every one of us does have a cross to bear, but which one? Is ours the cross on the right, the left, or the center? Let us review for a moment this scene on Calvary.
1. The Cross of Rebellion
2. The Cross of Repentance
3. The Cross of Redemption
You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.

But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid?
1. Because someone told me about the Resurrection
2. Because the Resurrection as stood the test of time
3. Because I have experienced the Resurrection

Christ is Risen!
[The people respond:] He is risen indeed!
Happy Easter, everyone!
"Because I live," Jesus said in John 14:19, "you also will live."
I wonder: how many of you are sitting out there, festooned in your Easter Sunday best, but your fingers are slightly stained? How many of you colored Easter eggs this weekend? I do think I can see some pinks, blues, greens, and purples shining on your fingers from all the Easter eggs you colored, hid, found, cracked, or consumed.
Take comfort in this: you are not alone. Just over one billion real eggs are dipped and dyed every Easter in America. The Dudley egg dye company sells over 10 million egg dying kits every year. No wonder we are such a colorful bunch!
Yet eggs sometimes get a bad rap at Easter. Eggs are such a widely used symbolic food. Everyone from dancing druids and pagan fertility gods to - worst of all - bored kids on Halloween, have all claimed eggs as some sort of special specimen for themselves.
The Christian use of eggs at Easter probably has roots in a host of different cultures and traditions. But there are two connections that make the "Easter egg" a powerful symbol for this miraculous morning. Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem brought him there to celebrate Pesach, Passover, in that holy city. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder. One of the ritual foods arranged on everyone's Passover plate was a hard-boiled egg, the "beitzah."
This egg symbolized the "chagigah," a ritual sacrifice made in the Temple. After the Temple was destroyed this egg also became a "mourner's" reminder. The Temple sacrifice could no longer be made, because the Temple no longer existed. In Orthodox Judaism hard boiled eggs are still offered to mourners as their first food after a funeral.
For Christians on Easter Sunday - as Mark and all the gospels tell us - funeral rites were transformed. The women who came to the tomb early Sunday morning were focused on mourning...