Summary: What does it mean to suggest that we "killed the author of life"? Readings from C.S. Lewis and John 1 complemented this sermon.
NOTE: The context of this sermon was a "Good Friday" service. The service began with a reading from C.S. Lewis’ "The Magician’s Nephew" in which Aslan ’sang’ Narnia into being. The prologue from John was also read. After some music, the crucifixion narrative was read, and then this sermon was preached. There was no music to conclude the service.
In human terms, the narrative that we have heard tonight is absolutely absurd. Ridiculous. Impossible.
When you heard the Prologue of John tonight, you may have been perplexed or surprised. Not because the words are unfamiliar, (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”), but because we are unaccustomed to hearing these words outside their traditional context of Advent and Christmas. To hear these words read together with the violent words of John 18 and 19 makes us uncomfortable. We’d rather separate these two sections of John’s Gospel—keeping Chapter 1 safely within our Christmas liturgies, and Chapters 12 through 20 for use during Holy Week. It offends our sensibilities to combine these passages in one dramatic reading, and yet that is precisely what the Evangelist did—for all of the passages we have heard tonight are part of the complete Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
What is it that makes us uncomfortable about hearing John 1 juxtaposed against John 18 and 19? It is this fact—Jesus is the Light of the World. And Good Friday reminds us that for three awful days we were able to snuff out that light.
We could get into a great theological discussion tonight about what happened to Jesus between His death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. We could delve into the history of the creeds, particularly those versions that state that “Jesus descended into Hades.” Did He in fact descend to Hades? Did He preach to the dead or set captives free? Or, did He somehow further suffer for the sins of the world?
I’m not sure we could really assert with any sense of dogma any one of those theories. At best, Scripture only alludes to what may have happened with Jesus during those dark days. And at worst, as some scholars maintain, those so-called ‘allusions’ are speaking about something different altogether, and Scripture remains silent on the matter of what happened to Jesus at His death.
But this much we can be certain of. Jesus was really dead.
No ifs. No ands. No buts.
He died and was buried in a tomb. The Light of the world was extinguished.
I want you to consider that thought this evening. What does it mean to say that mere mortals snuffed out the Light of the world?
Or put another way, imagine a tranquil scene at the ocean, where a painter sits with his easel, carefully applying paint from his palette to the canvas in front of him. He is painting the blue sky, the waves breaking in on the rocks, and the birds circling the lobster boat in the distance. As he nears the completion of this great masterpiece, the paint rebels, squeezes itself out of the tubes, off the canvas, and proceeds to drown the artist in his own paint. The paint kills the painter.
Or, imagine if you went to the Symphony, and enjoyed the awe-inspiring music as the musicians breathed life into their instruments, giving them the song. As they reached the climactic moment of the concert, the instruments decided that they no longer wanted to be played by this group of musicians, and they took the life that had been given them and proceeded to clobber and beat the musicians and conductor to death. By doing so, they kill not only the musicians, but they destroy their own song.
Examples abound. Imagine words jumping off the page and murdering the writer. Imagine actors in a play refusing to perform the way the playwright intended—and carrying him by force out of the theater where they hang him on the marquee as an example to other playwrights who want their work performed the way it was written. Imagine stained glass in a window jumping out of its leading, and stabbing the artisan.
That’s the great mystery of Good Friday, that we struggle to understand. The great paradox of the Gospel is that Jesus was light and life—and we killed Him. He was there at the foundation of the earth, and we killed Him. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. From Him and to Him and through Him are all things. And yet, the creation rebelled and killed the Creator.
In Philippians it says that Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Jesus, the Word of God, the Light of the World, became obedient, not only to the Father, but He also subjected Himself to the creation that wished to destroy Him.