4/14/2017 10:09:54 AM
A Reflection on Observing Good Friday
I had a strange thought as I stepped out my front door this morning. The sun was peeking through the Oregon clouds, a beautiful morning for a little hike with my dogs. I thought how odd it was to be walking my dogs on Good Friday morning. Surely, I had better things to do. Surely, I should be meditating, fasting, writing; I should be doing anything more important than this.
That though led me to think about what the people of Jerusalem were doing at 7 that first Good Friday morning. We know what the Chief Priests and the Sanhedrin were doing. At first light they held their second meeting to officially condemn Jesus to death and sent him to Pontius Pilate for the authority for execution. But Jerusalem was a big city. They didn’t have phones or internet. Most of the city was waking up and continuing the Feast of Unleavened bread which followed the Passover. The best of them would have been thinking about worshiping the Lord. Perhaps some worrying about all the practical preparations. I wonder if some were annoyed that this “Jesus situation” was interrupting their holy festival. I wonder how many went about their business without having any idea what was happening in the palace and on the hill of Golgotha. I wonder how the darkness that set in around noon affected them.
Then I thought of the women. They followed Jesus everywhere serving him, but they weren’t a part of his last meal with his disciples. They weren’t in Gethsemane (where they probably would have been better companions.) Did some of the cowardly disciples run and tell them as soon as Jesus was arrested? Did they learn when they woke up and went to find Jesus? How did they react? What did they do? We see that at the cross. I assume they were among those weeping when they heard Jesus had been condemned. I can only imagine how crushed these women, who lived to care for Jesus, felt when they saw his broken body and watched him die.
Where did the disciples go? Other than John, who watched it all unfold, I don’t know. I try not to think of them for fear that their cowardice dwells in my own heart.
These are the thoughts that ran through my mind this morning as I set out on a walk, feeling a tinge of guilt over doing something so trivial on such a holy day. But isn’t that the way of this world? Most of my Facebook friends are Christians, most of those good Lutherans, so my feed is full of Good Friday themed thoughts, but my local paper didn’t notice. The sports show I turn on occasionally for background noise mentioned how annoying it was that Easter always moves and the pastors and priests talk too long, making it hard for them to do their duty of dragging themselves to church. And my own heart isn’t much better. Yes I woke up with Good Friday on my mind and heart, but mostly out of professionalism. I wasn’t pleased with my short message for tonight, and was thinking how to say it better. Throughout the day, I will pause to meditate on my Lord’s suffering, but then the things that need to get done push those thoughts out.
Do you share this struggle? Every year we struggle to make this day different, to acknowledge that on this day something happened which could never happen and will never happen again. On this day God, the Holy God, suffered the agony of Hell and gave up his spirit and died. And much like the world did that day, today the world barely notices.
For me, this is the greatest single benefit of gathering in the house of God this day (and really every week). We aren’t good at meditating on God’s work. We struggle to focus our prayers. But the ceremonies of the Divine Service, and especially the special services of Holy Week, do for me what my own power could not: they focus my heart, my mind, and even my body on the cross of Christ.
One final word, guilt doesn’t fit on Good Friday. Good Friday is the day God forgave your guilt in Christ. So while it is fitting for us to sorrow over our sins, the sins which nailed our Savior to the tree, it is much more fitting to stand in solemn awe at the love of God, that he would die for me and for you and for the sins of the whole world.
May the Holy Spirit enrich your observance of this Holy Day until you go to bed with “It is finished” ringing in your ears.
To God be the Glory.