Let us pray: O God, as we are gathered here together tonight, we pray that you would open our eyes so that we may see the wonder of your love. Open our ears, so that we can understand your word and your truth. Permeate us, Holy Spirit, so that day after day we may know your will and see your light. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
I didn’t grow up with a tradition of going to Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services for Holy Week. Instead, we had a tradition of watching Jesus Christ Superstar in the week leading up to Easter. It does tell the story of Jesus’ last week on earth, up to His death, and in many ways it humanizes Jesus. And, of course, it has great, catchy music.
So, when Jesus Christ Superstar came through Tucson on tour one year, we jumped at the opportunity to see it live. We bought tickets, of course. And it was great seeing it live.
When they come to the scene where the crowd is chanting for Jesus’ crucifixion: “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him crucify him crucify him!”, even in the noise of a full stage production we heard something rather closer to us, and we turn to see my brother chanting along enthusiastically: “Crucify him! Crucify him crucify him crucify him!”
I mean, I admit, it’s a very catchy tune.
My brother was pretty young at the time, maybe six. I doubt he understood what the play was really about, what he was singing along to; and I really don’t think that he was intentionally crying out for the death of God.
We read this part of the story tonight, where the crowds scream to Pilate “Crucify him!” the crowd that the week before had welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with praise and hosannas and palm branches and honor. We read, too, of Pilate, of his fear and indecisiveness, of how he bowed to pressure of the crowd. We read of the priests, who denied their heritage and their beliefs to declare, “We have no king but Caesar,” when God is so clearly described and proclaimed as their king–and this, only to ensure that Jesus was at last taken care of. We read of the disciples’ disappearance after Jesus’ arrest, and of Peter’s denial. We read of the soldiers who flogged Jesus, who nailed Him to the cross and then rolled dice for His clothes. They all took part: they denied Jesus, they killed Jesus. They all refused to see who Jesus is: the Son of God.
We’ve all done that. We have all denied Jesus. We are just as guilty, just as sinful. Jesus died for all of us, after all. That’s why I was so struck by that memory of my brother, that moment where he so enthusiastically sang along, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Because we’ve all been that person, who was swept away by the emotions and theatricality of the moment, or just likes that thing that everyone else is saying. We’ve all been that person who found Jesus so very inconvenient and just wanted Him out of the way. We’ve all been that person who wants to get away from Jesus, from even the rumor of association, at any cost.
And that’s why we’re here tonight: to remember that. It’s not something we like to remember–it’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, and we all wish it weren’t true. We know that we shouldn’t run from God, or argue for His death, or just go along with it. We know that, so we want to hide it.
But God heals us, through this terrible day. God heals us, but that requires us to see where we’re broken, bring all of our shame out of hiding and bring it before God. God heals us, for “he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
We are healed. Through God’s love and God’s suffering we are healed and created anew. Amen, and amen.
*This prayer was adopted from this site.