April 19, 2019 by Ryan Arnold
A Good Friday funeral homily.
We gather to reflect on the life of Jesus. To some he is Son, to others Brother, to many Friend. He is known by so many names, including Emmanuel, Teacher, Lamb of God, King of the Jews, Light of the World, Son of God.
Many of us refer to him as simply Christ.
And no matter how we relate to and know Jesus, for those gathered today, we share this in common: For each of us, he was loved.
We gather to remember. We remember a conception; how Jesus came to be was arguably downright immaculate. We remember a baby, born in a Bethlehem barn, yet visited by kings. We remember a boy, who wanted nothing more than to spend time in his Father’s house. Even if it meant mom and dad thought him lost.
Perhaps most importantly we remember not just any man, but a highly accomplished one. What Jesus did, in his final three years on earth, far outweighs anything anyone could ever do in a complete lifetime. Or even a hundred lifetimes.
We remember a man of the people who loved to travel. Jesus reached, by foot or by donkey, far-flung destinations like Galilee, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Jericho. He was always seemingly on the move. From desert temptations, to river baptisms, to seaside fishing, his ministry was never defined by one single space.
We remember the best preacher who ever was. Sometimes he told it to you straight. Other times he spoke in parables, a master storyteller through and through. His earthy, elemental narratives had a way of getting your attention in unique, memorable ways. Whether he spoke of lost sheep or lost sons, or simply the upcoming harvest, you could be sure: his stories would make you rethink just about everything. At least everything you thought you knew about this mixed up, crazy world.
From temples to homes to mountains to hills to boats, Jesus was always ready to share the inspired Word. Sometimes he drew crowds numbering in the thousands. Other messages were just for a select few. But the size of the crowd didn’t really matter. “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name I am there with them” he always liked to say. From that we take comfort that, while gone, he is still, some how, some way, still with us right here.
We remember a man of miracles. From feeding 5,000 to walking on water to turning water to wine it seemed there wasn’t much this man couldn’t do. It wasn’t that Jesus liked nature. Or even that he was one with it. Jesus was nature itself.
We remember someone who always stood up for the underdog. Whether it was a woman who’d been divorced five times, or a religious minority, or the poor, or a leper left for dead at the city gates, Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed. Always. No exceptions. He ate with, drank with, spoke with, and healed people society said he should have nothing to do with.
But you know what? He did it anyways.
My guess? If he’d been with us longer he would have stood up for more kinds of underdogs, more types of marginalized people, more oppressed minorities. And done so in ways we can only begin to imagine.
We remember a man unafraid to speak truth to power. Jesus seemed really bothered when people used their influence to harm others. He stood up to the religious elite, the political elite, and the wealthy. And he wasn’t shy about it. He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that oppressing God’s children was wrong. Wrong because the kingdom Jesus spoke of stands for So. Much. More.
This one trait, speaking truth to power, is why so many were drawn to him. This one trait, speaking truth to power, ultimately got him killed.
We gather to grieve. We grieve for someone special; Jesus touched each of our lives in many, many ways.
We grieve a life cut short, tragically, at the age of 33. We wish Jesus were still with us, in the flesh.
We grieve alongside his mother Mary. A parent should never have to bury their child. His death runs counter to all the promises the angels made Mary while pregnant. We can’t help but question what we thought we knew him to be.
We grieve for a man many dreamed would be our next earthly king. Those dreams are now dashed. We’re left to ponder what life here, without him, even means.
And we grieve someone who once said, rather famously, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Some of us laughed at him for this. Many believed there was no way a massive building could be rebuilt in such short time.
But perhaps those words hold a different meaning. And for this, we hold on to, one infinitesimally minuscule, glimmer of hope. Amen.