Have you ever gone to visit someone or something and got the feeling that this was the last time? Have you ever been in such a thin space with God or with someone else that tears were the only language you needed to know? Have you even been betrayed—or been the betrayer—hurting someone you love in a harmful way? Friends, this is the scope of Holy Week. It is the final entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is the final meal he shares with his disciples. It is the time when his feet are anointed and his body prepared for its burial while still living. It is the time when friends Judas and Peter betray him and not only does it get him killed—it is a denial of the greatest of loves.
On this Good Friday, we see Simon of Cyrene help Jesus carry this cross to the hill where he will die. We see Jesus spat upon, pushed down, criminalized, tortured, and killed all in the name of the state all because he believed in a way of living called Love. However, Holy Week, and in particularly, Good Friday, is not only about gloom. While Jesus is hanging on the cross, we are told about the two men on either side of him; and despite not knowing them or having any real relationship with them--he promises them paradise—forgiving them for the things they’ve done knowing their time is also coming to an end. What I find most compelling about Good Friday, is that despite all the trauma Jesus has been through, and despite all the betrayal he has endured, he continues to practice what he believes even under the biggest cloud of doubt. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he cried, as the whips tore into his skin and people watched with glee.
Beloveds, Holy Week is a week long journey into the life of our Christ. We are joined with him in his doubts, in his pain, and we come into touch with our own doubts and step even closer to our own pains as we walk this narrative and sit with Christ in his agony. Good Friday confronts us with the pains and evils of this world that challenged Christ and the system that killed him—and it gives us glimpses into the systems of this world today that cast shadows over entire bodies of people and still crucify them.
However--Holy Week also brings us to a place where--our pains have opportunity to meet God’s compassion; our disappointments are met with God’s steadfast love; and our hopes have yet another opportunity to live again. Holy Week asks us to consider those areas in our life that need resurrection. It asks us to think about those parts of our life where Christ is still on the cross—where there is pain or agony—resentment or bitterness—and it asks us to think about what it might it look like to let some of this pain die with Christ—even just some of it—so that we might experience some new kind of resurrection with our Lord on Easter Sunday.
Holy Week is not necessarily a time to forgive offenses that have caused us great harm as forgiveness is an incredible journey that is not at all easy and can take a very long time. However—Holy Week is a time that invites us to consider where it is that all the pains we know and suffer, intersect with the God of Love who came into human form and lived as one of us—was rejected, betrayed, tortured, and left to die. Holy Week invites us to sit in those thin spaces and keep vigil—in the same way God keeps vigil with us in the storms of this life—in the same way we keep vigil with Christ in his death. Holy Week asks us to prepare our hearts to go deep into this work. It invites us to break bread—to wash one another’s feet—to anoint our bodies for burial with Christ—and to bear witness yet again to the pains of this world that killed our Christ—and continue to this day taking the lives of holy innocents. Good Friday reminds us that while Christ died—love never gives up. Love remembers the repentant and welcomes them home. Love remembers the doubtful and embraces them with conviction. Love faces every fear, and fights every battle, and remains the greatest of hopes and all virtues. Good Friday reminds us that Love never fails—that even from the grave—we make our song, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. This my beloveds, is what we gather to proclaim even in our darkest of hours—and it is this song that has called us together for these last two thousand years.
For many years, I wondered what, if anything about Good Friday was Good. I wondered why something so tragic, so criminal, as the death of Christ was in any way good. Did God really want this all to happen? Does God really forsake us in this way today? Christ, from the cross, even doubted. It is only natural that we too feel this—and we see this played out in the story of Peter—who apart from these three instances remained a person with strong faith and conviction. We also must consider Judas—who despite his selling Jesus out—suffered a very weak moment. We are no different.
The Good News of Good Friday, my beloveds, is that we are again invited into the mystery of God’s love. The pains we bear in this life—are met by God’s love. The doubts we have in this life—are met by God’s love. The pain and suffering we experience in this life are not some evil sent to us from a God who leaves us hanging. We are instead met with Love—in our darkest moments of this life—in our darkest moments on the crosses we bear. Perfect love calls us home. Perfect love walks with us in our pain. Perfect love bears our every pain. This is the Good News of Good Friday. Love’s finest display—the cross that bears the sins of the world. It is uncomfortable to watch what happened. It is uncomfortable to see anybody we love suffer…and like the disciples who stood to observe this awful pain…we are reminded that the invitation of God is to love us and never leave us or forsake us. Beloveds, we kneel in the presence of Christ at this cross today, bearing our full selves—both the disciple and the betrayer. In these days, we are invited to sit with Christ’s body and pray—just as Christ sits with us even in our darkest hour—and waits with us for resurrection. This is an opportunity to participate in the life, death, and resurrection of our Christ—and it is the hope of our faith. Good Friday is Good News. Friends, we are an Easter people—we know that from the ashes Love will rise again—we see it every day—even when we doubt—even when we can’t see it for ourselves. If you’re going through hell—hold on. Love is not yet done.