Good Friday

Good Friday.22 “His Best Trick”

Jesus did many signs and wonders, has some super powers. Which do you think is his best?

I read something—I can’t remember where, years ago, probably in some super-highbrow journal like Parade Magazine—about how your favorite superpower says a lot about you. It turns out that most all of our favorites say something bad about us. Like Flash speed, superhuman strength, imperviousness to bullets, all indicate you want to dominate others which isn’t really very nice of you. Stop that. Invisibility was the very worst one to want, as I recall—because it shows you want to get away with bad shtuff. If that’s your favorite, don’t let anyone else know! But, I suppose, if you do get it, then we’d never know anyway, so your secret would be safe…:-)

I do recall the only superpower that was wholly good to desire (and I probably only recall this because it’s my favorite, too) is flying. I can’t remember exactly why it’s good (probably just because it was the author’s favorite, also and she wanted to make herself look good and everyone else look bad, which is really not very nice of her, when you think about it :-(. Something about flying, I think, shows a healthy desire see everything?—indicative of a healthy, outward-focused, care-free, adventure-loving spirit? Probably, it’s all nonsense. But it would be fun to fly, wouldn’t it?

OK, I was stalling those last two paragraphs, a little, just to give you some time to think about your answer to the question of which superpower you think was Jesus’ greatest, which one you marvel at the most? I do think, with Jesus, just to make you more easy in your minds, confident in giving an honest answer, that there is not a bad one here, to like. I mean; all Jesus’ superpowers are Godly, Great, and Glorious. They’re all Good! So, you can be honest and it won’t say anything bad about you—like your secret desire for invisibility does. (I’m kidding. That study was probably nonsense. Most likely 😉

Anyway; lots of good choices with Jesus’ superpowers! Though, his ability to apparate, pass through stone walls, locked doors, angry mobs without them being able to grab him is pretty cool, yet invisibility adjacent, right? Maybe your desire for invisibility is justifiable, after all? Or not? The super-healing is pretty great. Curing leprosy, blindness, cancer, hemorrhages, lunacy, COVID, with a word or touch is just super. We all like that. Calming the raging seas and stormy winds is pretty awesome too, though. But if you could apparate… hey, I’m just teasing you again.

Glowing like the Sun is pretty boss, but I do struggle to see the usefulness, a little, on that one. Reading people’s minds is super-useful but… it would end most marriages, I think, for us who are not holy like Jesus is. So, not such a great one there, for us.

Alright. I think I’ve given you enough time to come up with your answer as to what you think is Jesus’ best and most amazing superpower. I really am very curious as to what your answers would be. I’m pretty sure invisibility would not make any lists, but I think I skewed the data on that one. My guess (and you can nod vigorously if I say yours) I’d say the top three of Jesus’ greatest superpowers might be 1) raising the dead? 2) Healing the sick? 3) Stilling storms and feeding thousands with the very bread of peace? Personally, I think that, if we asked the apostles they would say: “forgiving our sins” and “becoming incarnate” are 2nd and 3rd, though well behind, because they’re totally dependent on Numero Uno

    Yes, while all the above are wonderful and impressive, there’s one superpower that tops them all because it’s truly divine and impossible for me to even slightly get my head around—though I’ve been trying since I was 5! And no, it’s not flying (though Jesus did fly without a plane when He ascended into Heaven, which is extremely cool). But easily the greatest, most divine and awesome thing Jesus ever did is the superpower at the center of our Gospel today. Plain, and simply put, that…

He died.

Yep, that is the one I marvel at the most, that I simply cannot figure out, the one that’s most unlikely—NO!; downright impossible superpower for God to have, mischief to manage, would be to die. Because, uh, duh, HE’S GOD, RIGHT! FIRST RULE OF BEING GOD IS THAT YOU DON’T DIE, YOU CAN’T DIE, BECAUSE YOU’RE IMMORTAL!!!

And yet, Jesus is God, beyond all debate. Also, beyond all debate: crowned with thorns, on Golgotha, just about 30 yards outside the old city walls, at 3 pm, on Friday April 6, 30 AD, God died on a cross for the sins of the world. And that is something I just can’t get my head around. That He rose from the dead is like, well, duh!, of course. He’s God! You can’t keep a good God down! He’s immortal and everlasting and all-powerful. No one could ever kill Him. But uhm, wait… it seems that we did!

Yes, we did this to God. We killed the Lord of Life, the Lord Jesus, because, uhm… why did we kill Him, exactly? Because we liked Caesar better? That’s the excuse we all gave, at the time, to Pilate. Because God was cramping our style? That’s getting closer to the truth. The Gospel writers say it was envy, plain and simple. We were jealous. We want to be gods ourselves, masters of our fate, possessors of all superpowers (especially invisibility! OK, stopping the teasing on that—trying, pretty hard).

We wanted all knowledge and power, we didn’t want to kiss the One Ring of Power (that granted invisibility to Frodo, right? Sorry. Stopping!) we wanted to wear the Ring, to be all-powerful and all-ruling, ourselves. That’s why we ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Which made us die in a very un-super way…

But God would not leave us bereft. Yet, the only way to turn it all around was to suffer the pains of death Himself, taking on our flesh (the next best trick of His to dying) and—by dying in our place—to bring life and immortality to light for us.

But God can’t die and still be God, can He? It’s like making the Rock too big for Himself to lift. If He can’t lift it, He’s not all-powerful and not God anymore, right?

Well; superpower is being able to do whatever you want; so, if you want to give up all your superpowers and be mortal, weak, and die, then that would be the greatest superpower, certainly the most confounding of them all, I would wager.

So… the superpower of dying. I’m going with that as the greatest power, the best trick Jesus ever did. My favorite Gospel account of Good Friday is Mark’s. Because he gets right to the good part. The darkness from noon to three, the cry of dereliction “My God, My God why have You forsaken me?” (Another super power!, God abandoning Himself!). The last triumphant cry, the temple veil torn in two, the centurion, this Roman, (probably!) pagan, soldier (of all people!) gets it; because he makes the great confession “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Why? What convinced him of this astounding truth?

How does he know? Because he died. The one thing even God Himself simply cannot do, Jesus does! And that’s what clinches it—the bleeding, sighing, groaning, dying, the vanquishing of sin, the Word all Forgiving. Yeah; seeing the dying causes the believing

God wants you to see IT—the greatness of His dying, to draw you into IT, yourself; because dying with Jesus, like this, purges us of sin, death, and hell and makes us truly Good, at last, this Friday. Amen.

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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