Good Friday Text: Mark 14: 46 - 15: 47
Today we focus our gaze on Jesus.
It’s not by any means the only day we might do that but it’s the day that is by far the most difficult to hold our gaze there. To wonder why we would do such a thing is truly a great question.
To see him there in the garden the night before, wrestling with demons in the dark … am I truly this committed to the way of love? Is it worth it? … does it really have to come to this? Couldn’t there be another way … please God -- surely there’s another way. What if … why … why couldn’t they see it, try it, trust it? Suppose they never will? …
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
To see him approached by Judas … this bond of friendship shattered with a kiss … what happened?
To see him man-handled … deserted … dragged away … lashed … interrogated … severely beaten … mocked … falsely accused …unjustly sentenced.
To see him led to his execution … exhausted, aching, shouldering the weight of the cross beam … one foot in front of the other … his last steps … walking the dusty road to the hill … the dump.
To see him stripped naked … humiliated … his flesh pierced … his body writhing in agony … taking forever to get to his last breath.
Of course we can’t stand it … the horror … the ripping of our heart … the churning in our gut … the gagging in our throat, the need to puke.
Why would we hold our gaze there?
How did his mother do it? How did she stay with him, stay present to her dear son?
This is a human story … this is a family story … this is the story of people, some of them known to us … the story of people like us all over the world. This is tragically an everyday story … parts of it, all of it. It’s all over the news … every day.
Holding our gaze -- it’s not about being morbid … some sick voyeurism. This is about allowing our hearts to be broken open. This is about allowing a breakthrough in our numbness to remember again the belovedness of every life … that we might be enabled to see one another more truthfully, even move toward one another, rather than away.
This story that we dare linger with today is not just Jesus’ story but indeed a human story.
AND it is a God story.
But not a God story in the way some of us have been given to understand it. … that way that portrays a brutalizing God who demanded a blood sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world --yours, mine, the whole world’s … how Jesus was the chosen one … sent by God into the world --his only son-- to die, to pay the price.
Surely the time has come to let go of that abusive, toxic storyline that so clearly mirrors and projects the human instinct for retribution. That’s a human story that paints a picture of God in our own image.
Meanwhile with Jesus we are given another picture altogether -- Jesus who reveals the face and heart of God. Jesus, the storyteller, who offers us a vision God’s intended future --but not just with his words, but in his way.
Remember his way of noticing Bartimeaus on the roadside crying out not just for sight but for love … and Jesus stopping everything, and opening up this space for Bartimeaus to be seen, to be raised up, to be called into life.
Remember how he came alongside that woman who was about to be stoned. It was the law, but Jesus challenges the mob, “whoever of you is without sin,” he says, “go ahead, throw the first stone.” And one by one they walk away with a whole lot to think about. And the woman? Jesus blesses her on her way, releasing her to begin again.
Over and over and over again we see Jesus who through his touch, his words, his way, bears the beams of God’s life-changing love into the world. Until finally his challenge to the order of things becomes too much of a threat to those wouldn’t have it any other way.
Which brings us to this day …where the powers that be are fully bent on destroying him.
So now what do we see in Jesus?
He doesn’t run. He doesn’t mobilize a militia. He barely utters a word in his defence. Far from responding to the violence against him with more violence, we see him absorbing it … bearing it … bearing it in fact into the heart of God -- “Father forgive them,” we hear him say, “for they don’t know not what they are doing.” We seem him bearing the violence into the heart of God, that yet more love may be poured out for the sake of healing, for the sake of another way. This is Jesus trusting, even from this horrific place, that in heart of God there is only love.
“Father forgive them.”
But that’s not all we hear him say.
Before he breathes his last, we also hear him cry out, “my God, my God why have you abandoned me.”
At some point along the way these could well be the words we cling to. These words may in fact save our life! They name that moment, that experience of desolation when any sense of being accompanied, cared for, even thought of has vanished … when it’s impossible to imagine relief -- not a hint of it to be found … that sense of being utterly cut off, profoundly alone.
“My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” … to be able to utter those words, to be given these words, is perhaps the beginning, an opening, to a connection … for this not crying out to nothing … this is crying out to God … this is to find on our lips before we ever feel it in our heart the insistence that we are not ultimately alone.
“My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” … this is perhaps the most bold expression of faith we could ever make. It’s not about if you are, but where are you? … where are you now in this hour of my deepest need? To allow these words is to somehow keep us pursuing the One who we dare trust continues to pursue us.
AND it’s not just the words.
For to utter these words is to find ourselves in the company of Jesus, remembering him in his hardest of times.
To utter these words is to join him there, only to find him coming alongside us in ours. To utter these words is to discover his solidarity with us.
And to allow these words as we witness the unspeakable suffering of others is to somehow open our awareness to Jesus’ presence there too. It’s that presence that has the power to break open in us a response of love.
And so today as we turn and hold our gaze on Jesus through the unfolding of this story that is as deeply human as it is achingly divine, let us be open to the power and the invitation of the Holy Spirit
at work in us.