Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

From a young age, I was awed and intrigued by the story of Jesus' death. The final days leading up to his crucifixion were dramatic. The thought that on one evening, he could be in the comfort and safety of that upper room, having a meal with his disciples and then just a day later would be crying "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" in anguish on the cross was mind boggling. When I was in elementary school, I would even try to think of where Jesus was and what was happening on those days so long ago.

He must have been praying in the garden at about this time.

This must be about when Judas betrayed him.

It's Friday morning; I wonder if this is when the rooster crowed as Peter denied him...

Of course, Scripture does list some specific times: we know that from the 6th hour to the 9th hour (which scholars believe to have been 12:00 pm to 3 pm), darkness covered the land. I never accounted for the time difference, and so at noon, Pacific time, I would think, "Okay, Jesus would be on the cross now, and it's really dark."

And I vividly remember Good Friday services at church--Wiser Lake Chapel would hold a tenebrae service (with each reading, reflection and song, the lights are dimmed until the sanctuary is totally dark). This tradition caught my young imagination and has stayed with me to this day and served as a visual reminder to me of the bizarre, miraculous events of Good Friday afternoon.

As I mentioned, it got dark early. Matthew, Mark and Luke all include this detail. I wonder how many at Golgotha made the connection between this and the crucifixion. I wonder what other people thought as they went about their business and lives in Jerusalem.

Matthew, Mark and Luke also mention that when Christ died, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. When I was younger, this always seemed like a really epic scene to me: Christ cries out in a loud voice, and the very instant he dies, this massive, heavy curtain tears down the middle. Matthew even mentions that the ground shook and that graves opened up, and many who were dead returned to life, which adds to the intensity of the scene. I now understand that for the average person living in Jerusalem, perhaps even for the disciples, who had a penchant for missing what Christ was really saying (by their own admission), these natural and supernatural events may have seemed completely random. The disciples, and others at Golgatha likely would not have found out about the temple curtain until later. Several gospels report that a centurion understood the connection: "Surely this man was the Son of God", he says after Jesus dies.

It's easy for me to read this and think "well, duh..." However, I know, just based on the way I think and act that I would have been more like the disciples and the countless others who heard Christ, smiled and nodded, but failed to put two and two together. For those who didn't understand Christ's promise that He would rise again, it must have been a horrible day... to lose a friend, a teacher, one who had been rumored to be the Messiah... it must have seemed like the end of all hope.

However, we know from our vantage point what so many at the time didn't realize: Christ would triumph. Christ is LORD of all and that includes all of nature, even the ground that we stand on. From Good Friday, we eagerly await a day when darkness will not reign, when the ground will stop shaking and when death itself will be history.

We can count on the coming of this day because the story didn't stop with the cross. I pray that all of my thoughts and reflections of the coming days will lead me from the cross to the empty tomb, which is the source of profound hope and unending joy.

1 comment:

  1. This morning in my gospel reading I was up to the resurrection, but it didn't feel right to read it on Good Friday, so I took a gospel break and read Psalm 22. I realized this was not a memory verse when Jesus said it. It was not even an illusion. It was reality for him. For David, the one he was quoting, it was a legitimate feeling that even people after God's own heart experience, but for Jesus, it was reality. Which he endured so we wouldn't have to. This year I'm not focusing on the physical pain, but on the separation from God. Psalm 22 ends in celebration of God's celebration. Did Jesus have that in mind when he uttered the words of verse 1? No idea--but they were real. What a mystery.