This week, the days have been quiet (being sheltered-in-place), with less activity and busy-ness, making more time for contemplation, study, and prayer. We have walked with Jesus through the last week of his life. The day we’ve dreaded, in all its horror, is here. My heart is physically heavy. I can feel it in my chest, weighted by sadness and grief. Oh, that there could have been another way.
During our ministry career, we had the opportunity to journey with many who lost loved ones. I think the best thing a grieving person can do is to feel all the feelings associated with the loss. Don’t stuff them, give them your full attention and feel each and every one, experiencing the depth of every emotion.
Today, on Good Friday, open your heart and feel it all.
Betrayal. By daybreak, Jesus had been turned over to the authorities by Judas and disowned by Peter, within hours of one another. The betrayal of a friend has a particular sting (one might argue you can only be betrayed by a friend). A friend should be the one who stands by you in your darkest hour, not the one who turns on you. Where were Jesus’ disciples while he was hanging on the cross? John is the only one mentioned as having been there. The others were watching from a distance or not at all.
Mockery. From the spectators to the soldiers, Jesus was laughed at, spit upon, dressed up in a robe and paraded around wearing a crown of thorns, shouted at on the cross to save himself, and his personal effects divided among the soldiers as if it were a game. How did Jesus respond to such derision? He prayed to the Father that He forgive them, because they didn’t understand what they were doing. Already unbearable, this was barely the beginning of what he was to endure.
Pain. It is hard to conceive how much physical pain Jesus bore. He was punched, beaten repeatedly across the head with a staff, flogged, (Isaiah 52:14 says he was battered beyond recognition), and forced to carry his own cross until he collapsed. Such pain is unimaginable, but then, after all that, he endured crucifixion – for six long hours until he died. Without complaint and with such grace, promising a place in paradise to the thief next to him, praying that his tormentors would find forgiveness, concerned about the welfare of his mother.
The weight of sin. As if the physical pain wasn’t enough, Jesus carried the weight of the sin of the entire world on himself. Every wrong – past, present, and future – he carried the burden of it all. He could not even enjoy the comfort of oneness with the Father, because that’s what sin does – it separates us from God. When Jesus bore the weight of it, he was utterly alone.
We know what is coming on Sunday. But let’s not be in a hurry to celebrate his resurrection. There will be time for that. Let’s take this time – today – to feel his pain, the terrible void his death left, the hopelessness of those who didn’t yet comprehend what was going on, the oh so high cost of our sin. Sunday is coming. But for today, let’s not be like the disciples watching from afar. Let’s stand together at the foot of the cross.
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)