A dear friend sent around a wonderful piece this morning about Good Friday done by his pastor. I attach it at the bottom of this morning’s Pew.
He got me to thinking about Good Friday. For as long as I’ve been an Episcopalian I have been told and believe that Lent ends on Good Friday. But as I think about it there is a downside to my belief. I have to be careful not to think the finish line is twenty yards closer than it actually is. If I focus on Lent being over, as opposed to Easter arriving, I fall into a devil’s trap. As great a day Good Friday is, we wouldn’t be wearing Easter bonnets and Easter parades if the story ends on Good Friday. As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story.”
I’m not saying that the end of Lent and Good Friday aren’t big deals, as my friend’s pastor explains, but be careful to not dance in the end zone just yet. Easter is but hours away, and it will blow your socks off.
Here is the message from James:
of the first Holy Week. Jesus is hauled to a public court for a bogus trial conducted with unvarnished bias – although we needn’t see the authorities as simply wicked. “These leaders were motivated by a mix of insincerity, self-protective cunning, honest religious devotion, conscientious soul-searching and fanaticism. In other words, they acted like many religious leaders, and other sorts of leaders do, bending the truth a bit because they know their cause is good, and they’ll be in real trouble if they lose the argument” (Raymond Brown).
Jesus’ closest friends are really no less petrified. Peter (see his name in the adjective “petrified”?) was… seeking warmth? maybe companionship?? as he huddled with others around a fire. When quizzed if he knew Jesus, he back-peddled into huffy denial. To anyone who suggests our Gospels were cooked up by fakers deceiving readers decades later, I ask why they wouldn’t have whitewashed embarrassing episodes like this one? Join a movement founded by quivering liars?? Who’d make this stuff up?
Trumped up evidence wins the day. Jesus is seized by the soldiers who mock him cruelly, scoffing as they pretend to bow down to such a pathetic looking “king.” Robert Barron is right: “Mark does not want us to miss the irony that Jesus is implicitly king also of these soldiers,” however ignorant they may have been. Jesus is king over Pilate too. Nobody’s more scared than Pilate, trying to keep the peace, confused by this little man so courageous and seemingly not just willing but eager to die.
. Jesus is crucified. Ponder the shattering, excruciating pain of this. Noon. Darkness everywhere. Was it a huge black cloud that blew overhead? A solar eclipse? God’s sorrowing heart? 3pm
. Jesus cries out in agony, reciting Psalm 22 from memory: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Bodini’s bronze sculpture pretty much captures the sheer agony. Jesus breathes his last. Soldiers still chuckle as his mother wails in utter, unspeakable grief.
Mark reports that the Roman centurion, taking in the whole scene, surprisingly confesses: “Surely this man was the Son of God.” No one else, Jesus’ closest associates included, understood – so what did the centurion see? Jesus’ nobility? His “stiff upper lip” as he faced death? I love G.K. Chesterton’s rumination on how Jesus died, crying out in despair and doubt, and what it means for those who believe, those who don’t yet, or can’t, or even won’t:
“The only courage worth calling courage must mean that the soul passes a breaking point – and does not break. The Author of all things went not only through agony but through doubt. He passed through our human horror of pessimism.” He continues to reflect on “the cry which confessed that God was forsaken by God,” suggesting hope for and inclusion of even atheists! “They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation, only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”
Ever felt forsaken by God? Do you ever look at the troubles of the world and think There just can’t be a God? Good Friday is your best day ever. God became one with us in our questioning, our doubt, our disbelief, our suffering, our isolation, our abandonment, our mortality. How good is this God?”
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