I want to start with a PSA: although the Bible refers consistently to "the Jews" as being to blame for Christs' crucifixion, this is an increasingly offensive falsehood. In reality, yes, some of Jewish elite were responsible for condemning him, but Roman officials were equally responsible, and it is absurd to indict a whole people for the actions of a few. It is furthermore absurd to indict a people today for something that happened over 2000 years ago. I say this because unfortunately, Christianity has historically been a breeding ground for anti-Semitism, and I for one think it is high time it is put to rest.
So Christians call it "Good Friday" because we know how the story ends, but in reality, on the day itself some 2000 years ago, there would have been nothing good about it at all. That is perhaps the most obvious point I can make today.
This does not just apply to the disciples. This applies to everyone in the Gospel passage for Good Friday, which consists of the Passion Narrative (John 18:1-19:42).
I was once told, "Read the Bible as though it was a story about you". I could go one step further and say that about any book. But why do we like certain books or movies? Because we see ourselves in one or more of the characters. It is no more complicated than that. Ask of yourself in any Bible story, fable, legend, work of history or fiction, "Who am I in this story? How would I have reacted? How SHOULD that character have reacted?", and I guarantee you will have learned the lesson it was meant to convey.
Unfortunately, in the Passion Narrative, there is no good character to be. Everybody but Jesus fails on an epic level in the Passion, and I certainly would not want to have been Jesus on that day.
Let's go over the cast: Judas. Obviously a fail. He failed to uphold the basic precepts of friendship and fidelity. He sold out his friend, his teacher for cold, hard cash.
Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas: failure on a systemic level. All three were in positions of power and prestige, and wanting to protect their positions, they cast aside basic precepts of morality, human dignity and mercy to keep riding the gravy train.
Sure, one could say that at least Pilate TRIED to defend Jesus, but in the end, he failed to grow a spine. He found no guilt in Jesus, but caved in to the people calling for his blood.
Then there are the people who were calling for his blood, some of the Pharisees, elders and scribes. Jesus' simple message of Gods' love threatened their carefully-constructed religious monolith, and therefore their positions of prestige, and so they called for his death. Stop and imagine that: being so angry and scared that you need someone killed? Screaming for someone's blood to be spilled because they don't think as you do? Time to re-evaluate your entire life.
Then there were the disciples, Peter in particular. They all scattered and denied any association with Jesus when they perhaps could have testified in his defense. Yes, they likely would have bought themselves a cross as well, but they failed to protect someone they claimed to love.
There are bit players: the soldiers and people who mocked him, but I think it is easy to see where they failed.
From start to finish, the Passion Narrative is story of the failure to humankind. The failure to adhere to the basic concepts of values and virtues, of morals, of decency, mercy, compassion, kindness and understanding.
But it gets worse. It is also the story of systemic corruption and violence. Particularly, Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, the Pharisee, elders and scribes were part of a corrupt system that tried Jesus and executed him for no discernible crime.
I would like to say that things have changed in 2000 years, but they have not. One look at a newspaper should be sufficient to show us that many of the political, religious, social and economic systems in which we live are ultimately corrupt. They abuse the already underprivileged and benefit the elite.
Although I am not into needless guilt, the reality is that you and I are complicit in these systems. Every time we purchase something from a company that does not pay a living wage, we have failed. Every time we turn a blind eye to a miscarriage of justice, we have failed. Every time we contribute to the wanton destruction of the Creation we have been made stewards of, we have failed.
Every time we mock the innocent, we have failed. Every time we don't stand up for our convictions and for what is right and just, we have failed. Every time we pull the disciples' fairweather-friend routine on our own loved ones, we have failed.
Don't get me wrong, we all fail. I have failed a few times this morning alone. But we need to be aware of it. We need to look on the tragedy of the cross and realize that it could have been prevented at so many points.
We need to know that real people are figuratively being crucified daily. And we need to know that we take part in it.
And then we need to change.