I’ve been asked to preach at a Good Friday service that lifts up the voices of the various women in the events surrounding Jesus’ death. I got the call yesterday asking if I would preach- apparently the woman originally slated to do it backed out.
Now I think I know why. That’s because I’m to find a 12-15 minute sermon in the voice of Pontius Pilate’s wife, who holds a one verse part in Matthew 27. I’m guessing the other woman slated to do this passage saw her assignment and fled. My flight response just isn’t as honed as it could be.
Hence this question. On the darkest, most solemn day of the Christian calendar, is it irreverent to use humor? Because, seriously, thus far I’ve only been able to imagine Pontius Pilate’s wife as a bored transplant from Rome who thought when she married Pontius that she’d have a life in the limelight at the center of luxury and power, but instead found herself in the dry, dusty, remote Roman province of Palestine with only a middle manager for a husband. When she sends a note to her husband presiding at Jesus’ trial, she has probably been doing her nails, watching morning talk shows like “The View,” and speculating on when the next caravan of luxury goods will roll into town. That disturbing dream she has alerting her to Jesus’ innocence? She probably has been dozing on the couch having turned the channel a few too many times to the local news station.
So she sends the following instruction to her husband, just before Pontius- who I keep envisioning has a lisp, thanks to Monty Python- hands Jesus over to be flogged: “Don’t have anything to do with that man (Jesus),” she writes; “because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him” (Matthew 27:19).
It’s a line I’m going to have to run with, since it’s her only line. “Is it really possible not to have anything to do with Jesus?,” becomes my question reading Matthew’s account of Christ’s Passion. That’s probably the direction in which I’ll take this sermon.
Still, I’m left with the fact that on a day that I’m supposed to be really serious, I’m having trouble keeping a straight face, much like the centurion guards who have to look solemn and dignified when listening to their boss prate on and on with a lisp about Biggus Dickus and his wife Incontinentia Buttocks. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, here it is for a few laughs:
So…what do you think? Is it bad taste to use humor in a Good Friday service, or can our humor be a way of witnessing to the resurrection on the darkest day of the year? I’d love to hear your thoughts!