Monday, April 9, 2012

Your Good Friday Family

In Nomine Iesu
St. John 19:26-27
April 6, 2012
Good Friday

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus~

To “behold” something is to see it with your eyes. But it’s also more than that. To behold someone is to see that person for who they really are. To behold another human being is to see them in a way that goes beyond noticing things like height, weight, or hair. To behold someone is to look past the exterior to see the real and true identity.

An example would be the groom who “beholds” his bride walking down the aisle on their wedding day. With his eyes, the groom sees a girl he knows wearing a white dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers. But he “beholds” this person as the love of his life and the woman of his dreams. If that couple is one day blessed with the birth of a child, what they will see with their eyes is just another crying baby. But they will “behold” this child as a gift from God—a new target for all their hopes and dreams and prayers.

On Good Friday, as the people of Jerusalem beheld the crucified Christ, they saw Jesus for who He really was. They beheld Him as the Suffering Servant about whom all the prophets had spoken—the one who was pierced for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities, stricken, smitten and afflicted. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptizer had pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold—behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And on Good Friday, at the apparent end of Jesus’ ministry, the people of Jerusalem could behold exactly what that meant—Jesus as our sin-bearing, sacrificial Lamb. Our sin—and its punishment—intersect in the man on the center cross.

But on this Good Friday I want you to do more than see the nails and thorns. I want you to see not only how Good Friday forever changed things between you and God; but to behold how Good Friday forever changed things between you—and you, and you and me. I want you to behold your family—your Good Friday family.

We can glimpse the importance of family in the words that Jesus spoke to His mother and to John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Hanging from the cross, Jesus spoke two sentences which would cause John and Mary evermore to behold each other in a radically different way: “Woman, behold your son!” And to John He said, “Behold, your mother.” We know nothing of the relationship between John and Mary prior to that moment. But what we do know is this: that relationship was redefined at the cross. Family ties were created where none had ever existed before. And from that moment on, John took Mary into his own home. He beheld her and loved her as his own mother. A new family unit was forged on that Good Friday—a family unit created by the powerful Words of Jesus.

What I want you to behold here is more than just Jesus being a good son—Jesus looking after His aging, widowed mother the way all children should care for their aging parents. I see that; but I behold much, much more going on here. I behold that the Good Friday family forged by the Word of Jesus has grown and expanded to include all of us here tonight. The death of Jesus affects and changes the way all the followers of Jesus behold one another. We are part of the Good Friday family—related to one another by the blood of Jesus which has bought our pardon from sin and death. We have in common one Lord, one faith, one baptism. And the collect prayer for Good Friday hits the nail on the head as it leads us to pray these words: “Almighty God, graciously behold this, your family.” Because of what happened on Good Friday, God beholds us as His family; and we ought to behold each other in the same way.

But how often we do not. How often we fail to behold one another as family. Now, the word “family” gets used in some awfully trite ways these days. When my children were in elementary school, we would often hear references to the “Richards School Family.” Or maybe you hear it at work, something like, how, “At ABC Corporation we’re really just one, big family.” Or when you’re watching the evening news and the anchor person refers to “our channel 12 family.” Those are fake families—phony families concocted out of thin air to manufacture a sense of loyalty. But this family is not just a feel-good slogan. This is the family of “our Father” who art in heaven, created by the Words and by the blood of Jesus—a family which grows every time another sinner is washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism.

We are family; but how often we refuse to behold one another in such a way. If we really beheld one another as family, then this church would be full for every funeral (because we’d all show up . . .because family is expected to attend). If we really beheld one another as family, then we would always strive to behold the best in each other. But how often do we choose to see only the worst—to put the worst construction on the words and actions of others? How often do we categorize one another and then keep our distance from those we categorize as annoying, arrogant, lazy, bossy, or boastful? Those kinds of categories, and cliques of any kind, have no place in the church—no place in the Good Friday family of our Lord.

God grant us grace on this holy night not just to see one another; but to behold one another for what we really are: members of the same family, children of the same heavenly Father, souls Christ died to save. Behold, the family of God! Look around and see what the wondrous love of God has created. This family exists—you are sons and daughters of God—only because God the Father abandoned His Son to die on the cross. That death makes peace between you and God. That death makes peace between you and you and you and you.

We are one—a Good Friday family. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are one family. And this oneness is a gift from God. Widows, widowers, and singles, you are not alone. You are not without family. And those of you who are estranged from your families—those of you with family members who do not share your faith in Jesus—remember you are not alone. You are not without family. God has given us to you, and you to us. And as our individual families struggle with busyness and conflict and financial pressures, do not fail to see—to behold—that you belong to the Good Friday family of our Lord—that you are surrounded by a body of believers to pray for you, to comfort you, to help you bear your burdens.

By His words—and by His wounds—Jesus has shown us that He beholds us as His family, the church. His death has made us one family through faith. On this side of heaven, we can’t always see that oneness with our eyes. But the crucified and risen Christ has gone before us into heaven, to prepare for the grandest, greatest family reunion ever held. And that heavenly reunion will truly be a sight to behold.

On this Good Friday, behold the Lamb of God. Behold the family of God.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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