“The Death of an Extremist”: A Good Friday Sermon

Over the summer, my Good Friday sermon “The Death of an Extremist” appeared as the Feature Sermon in an issue of Theodidaktos on the theme of “Atonement: What is the Message of the Cross?”  Theodidaktos is published by the Evangelical Mennonite Conference.  The sermon goes back to my time serving as a congregational pastor in Toronto, but it is one of my favourites, narrowly missing the cut for inclusion in Leaps of Faith.

Here is my preface to the sermon that appears in the journal:

There seems to be a developing consensus among theologians and biblical scholars that the various ways the Bible speaks about atonement is not ultimately an obstacle to be overcome, but a gift to be received.  Fleming Rutledge, for instance, in her celebrated volume The Crucifixion, argues that the various themes and motifs used by the New Testament to expound the crucifixion must be understood in their narrative context and not forced into what she calls “one narrow theoretical tunnel.”[1]  Good Friday preaching, then, is not the opportunity to serve up helpings of one’s favourite atonement theory, but rather presents the invitation to attend carefully to the text, in order to discern how the aroma and flavour of the biblical passages under consideration intersect with the lived reality of faith within a particular congregation.  The sermon that follows is not easily classified in terms of atonement motifs or models.  A strong case could be made for seeing it as an exemplar of preaching in the Christus Victor tradition.  However, the case is complicated by the prominent place given to the munus triplex—the threefold office of Christ—in the sermon.  This strange brew is then seasoned by a dash of Irenaean recapitulation, and a further pinch of what could be called a participationist or new covenantal understanding of the atonement.  The reader will have to decide whether the result of this strange mishmash of ingredients is merely culinary confusion or something resembling the feast for the senses offered by Luke the Evangelist himself.

You can read the sermon and download the issue of the journal in its entirety here.

[1] Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 208.

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