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SERMON: LUKE 22.39-23.56


KEY TEXTS: Luke 22.39-45; 23.44-56

2239 He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples
followed him. 40 When he reached the place, he said to them, Pray that you may not come into
the time of trial. 41 Then he withdrew from them about a stones throw, knelt down, and
prayed, 42 Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be
done. [[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44 In his anguish
he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the
ground.]] 45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping
because of grief, 46 and he said to them, Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may
not come into the time of trial.

2344 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the
afternoon, 45 while the suns light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then
Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Having
said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God
and said, Certainly this man was innocent. 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered
there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.
But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a
distance, watching these things.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Prayer for Illumination:

Lord God, for Resurrection to happen, there must be Death. We live between those two realities, and we
do so imperfectly. Help strengthen us and build in us a spiritual scaffolding and infrastructure as your
people, so we might bear the weight of this world, and do it better than we have beforefor us and for
the world around us. AMEN.


Intro: Passion Geography

Preaching on this passage this year is a unique privilege for me. As many of you know, in
January I took a trip to Israel and walked these very steps that Jesus takes in our story. And the
most powerful place for me on that whole trip was the Mount of Olives, where I text opens up,
where Jesus is praying with his disciples.
The Mount itself is taller than the city of Jerusalem, so from anywhere on the Mount, you stand
overlooking the entire city of Jerusalem with the Temple Mount, where the Jewish Temple once
stood, standing right in the middle of your vantage point.
Judaism believes that the Messiahthe one who comes to make all things right in the world
and do away with evilwill come to earth at the Mount of Olives, down the Kidron Valley and
back up onto the Temple Mount, where he will make the Temple his throne room from which
he will rule and reign on the world in justice and goodness. Further, they believe when he
comes he will raise from the dead all of his people to rule and reign with him.
This belief led to the start of the largest and oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, built onto the
side of the Mount of Olives. This cemetery would have been there even during Jesus time, and
its hard to miss. While on the Mount, standing between you and Jerusalem, the place where
the Messiah will make all things right, there stretched before you a massive cemetery of
tombstones numbering in the 100s of thousands.
Additionally, all of these graves are buried with the feet of their inhabitants facing toward the
temple, the idea being that when the Messiah comes, not only will they be the first raised form
the dead, but that theyll have a running head start to the Temple.
So we should note the same think Jesus likely did as he was praying. As he looks up and over
to the Temple, this symbol of life, forgiveness, wholeness, and Gods presence, he knows the
weighty truth we will press into tonight: the only way to Easter, Resurrection Life, and Gods
good rule and reign in our hearts the world, is to descend and cross over into the lowest of
valleys and through death itself.

A Radical Release
This truth is seen most clearly in the bookends of our passage, those powerful prayers of Jesus
to his Father: Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be
done and Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit. In these brief prayers, there is a

universe of meaning and weight. They occupy a liminal space between doubt and faith,
questions and answers, knowledge and mystery, life and death.
Jesus cries out to his Father and throws himself entirely on the willingness of his Father to do
something that God ultimately does not do! God is not willing to let this cup pass. And yet, Jesus
casts himself and his soul entirely on the unknown will of his Father. Jesus genuinely does not
seem to know what his Fathers answer may be here.
Similarly, when Jesus commits his Spirit into his Fathers hands, it is a complete abandoning of
his entire self for God to do whatever he wants! His Father had already said no to Jesus prior
prayer (He would not let this cup pass), and yet Jesus is still willing to leave his present and his
futurein both this life and the nextentirely in the hands of his Father.
This shows us a radical faith, not in observable outcomes are even believed doctrines, but
purely in who this God iseven when we are not 100% confident exactly what it might look
like. The modernist poet Wallace Stevens expresses this tension well in one of his most
beautiful poems, "The Well Dressed Man with a Beard":

"After the final no there comes a yes,

And on that yes the future world depends."
--Wallace Stevens, The Well Dressed Man with a Beard
Stevens wasnt a Christian as far as we know, but he expresses this sense that in a huge, cosmic,
existential way, we feel in our bones a definitive No stamped on all our endeavors. They will
die. We will die. Evil will prosper and righteousness will lose. The only kind of meaning and
fullness we can know is from what we can extract out of our lives right now in the present.
There is, as Stevens calls it, a final no to all things.
And yet, he admits to a quieter voice echoing out from the nothingness. After the final No that
rages inside of us, there is a Yes. A quiet Yes. A Yes that is easily drowned out and distracted
from, and yet a Yes nonetheless. And it is on this Yes that all the future depends.
Jesus shows us in these Good Friday pleadings that the No is true and definite. Feeling it is not a
failure of faith. And yet there is a Yes towards which our intuitions hearken and our trust can be
offered. But it is a kind of trust that has to be an act of abandon shouted into the seeming
nothingness, hoping, praying, that the echo that answers us in response is that Yes.

Easter Tension
It is my belief that we move too quickly to Easter in this time of year. In a cosmic sense, this
universeand our livesare currently stuck between the Cosmic Good Friday and Cosmic

Easter. We must learn what it means to live in this tensionto fully inhabit it and occupy it. The
Christian life is one of process, growth, and abandon to the God that is bigger than our
Our world lives in Good Friday. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said that God is
dead. But have you ever read the full quote from when he first said this? He said:

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we
comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?"
--Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

This statement by Nietzsche wasnt some statement of arrogant atheistic certitude. It was a
lament; a description of the reality in which so many of us live. Looking over the history of our
world, he points out to us that humanity has destroyed the pillars that held up all meaning for
our existence. All the transcendence on which our future hope was based has been shattered as
humans have based more and more of their sense of meaning and purpose on this world and
this life here and now.
In a sense, Nietzsche is saying that this world exists in a kind of Saturday after Good Friday; a
kind of world where God "feels" dead, where the things of God feel more like the hauntings of a
ghost from one long dead, where the cries of the dying God on the Cross echo and reverberate
against the walls of our lives.
And again, for those of us that have felt this sense of Divine Death (and Id argue its all of us),
this isnt an expression of pride, arrogance, sin, Christian immaturity, or some lack of faith. It is
pressing all the more deeply into the weighty, middle space in which this world lives and our
souls exist. Feeling this way is simply being human.
Notice that in our text, Jesus does not move immediately to Resurrection. In none of his prayers
does he mention it. He doesnt stare death and evil in the face and blithely say, Oh, its fine.
Gods good and Ill be raised again in a few days. He fully inhabits the unknowing, the fear, and
temptation to cling to what he knows here and now and forget the rest. To be the best
pleasing religious person possible without the deep existential abandon of giving oneself over
entirely to God.
He enfolds this middle space of doubt, questioning, unknowing, and Divine Abandonment into
his own experience. And so when we experience those things, we are not far from God, but
rather are closer to the very life of God.
And so we see that Easter and Resurrection life can only come if we pass through death. And
not just physical death, but death to our certainty, death to our desires, death to our comfort,
death to our very will in this world.

The Good Friday Proclamation: God Has Died!

And so, on this night, we proclaim: God has died. God has died. There is the final No. Ig is loud.
It is real. May we learn to commend our souls to a God even though we dont know for sure
what he will do. We place our souls in the hands of a God that might very well let us go, drop
us, or crush us. At this point in the storythis Good Friday pointwe simply do not know. We
read the words of these Scriptures, press into Christian life best we canand still we will never
know for sure. All we can do is cast ourselves into the existential unknown of the Final No and
hope, that the response is Yes.
Let us not move too quickly to the overwhelming joy and sweetness of Easter without passing
through the darkness and tension of this night. Let us feel it rage in our hearts and souls. Let us
look out on a world thatmost days, lets admit itdoes not seem to look like it is being ruled
by a Good God, but rather lives in the darkness of Good Friday. Let us learn to do what another
poet, Dylan Thomas, tells us to do:

"Do not go gentle into that good night

[but] rage, rage against the dying of the light."
--Dylan Thomas, Do not go softly into that Good Night

So Liberti Church, may you dwell deeply in the darkness of Good Friday, and learn to do so
well. And may we, together, rage, rage against the dying of the light. In the name of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
To close the message, I will pray this prayer by St. Teresa of Avila, which is also printed in your
worship folder:

"If it is your will, my God, let us die with you.... Living without you is nothing
but dying over and over again. Living without you is nothing but living in
dread of the possibility of losing you forever."
-- St Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle

Sermon B-Side: What didnt make the final cut

In conclusion, how do we inhabit this tension? How do we live between Good Friday and Easter
as we await whenand ifResurrection may come? I offer two ways we can do this. First, let
us take our cue from the people of God who have come before us and now lay in that Jewish
cemetery built into the side of the Mount of Olives. As we enter into death, let us dwell in on
this Mount, praying with Jesus, with our feet pointed toward Gods Temple and Gods presence.
Let ustogetherplant our feet firmly in the direction of Gods presence and Gods family. We
live in this tension together, not alone, and in faithtrustthat of God comes and brings life
and meaning to both our future and our present, he will bring us along with him.
And secondly, let us follow the example of Jesus disciples. Tomorrow is what the Church has
historically called Holy Saturday, and its perhaps the most mysterious day in all of
Christianity. What the heck is going on here with Jesus, his work, and this world in that inbetween day? We simply dont know. But what were the disciples doing on Holy Saturday?
Look at the last line of our text. In all four Gospels, this is the thing every said about what was
going on that day. The only hint we are given about what life looks like between Gods Death
and Gods Life: On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Tomorrow, and in our life to come, as we live in a holy Saturday kind of world, we find places of
quietness and rest. We find a place for our doubts and questions to give voice. We find rhythms
to our life that keep us in the Gods rhythm even as we abandon ourselves to his will.

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