Good Friday 2015
Tonight, Lord, we kneel. Before Your cross. We do not know what we would have done or where we would have been if we had been in Jerusalem on the first Good Friday, before there was any reason to call it good. What Peter hoped would pass for courage turned out to be stupidity, when he sliced off the ear of the high priest’s slave in the Garden, as You were arrested. (It must have been quite a memorable moment, Lord. There is surprising detail in the story; even though many important players in Scripture are anonymous, we know this slave’s name was Malchus, and we even know it’s the right ear that he lost.)
To his credit, Peter then clung to you like a burr to a sock, as You were trooped from Annas to Caiaphas. He was brave enough to slip into the high priest’s courtyard, but not brave enough to acknowledge he knew You. Before the rooster announced the morning, Simon Peter had verbally cut his ties with You three times. Judas, of course, had already done his dirty deed. And, against all his better judgment, sitting on the Judgment Seat, Pilate caved under the political pressure the religious leaders brought to bear upon him, and he condemned You to death.
We don’t know if any of the disciples shadowed You, Lord, as the temple police passed you along to the Roman soldiers. Did Your friends hover near, straining to see and hear, cringing when they recognized Your cries as the metal balls, bone shards, stinging rope of the cat o’ nine tail lashed Your back and tore up Your flesh? Did they hide just outside the circle of torchlight, determined to see where the soldiers would take You next?
What can we say of and to those fair weather friends of Yours, Lord? “See ya’, wouldn’t want to be ya’!”? And what of weak Pilate, the cruel soldiers, the mocking passers-by? How ‘bout if we state the obvious? “You guys really missed the boat!”
Yet: a few minutes ago we sang Ah, Holy Jesus and asked:
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
And we confessed:
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee.
I crucified Thee.
So I, who probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to stand at the foot of Your cross on the first Good Friday, I who most likely would have been in hiding with most of the rest of Your friends, I kneel before Your cross tonight. St. John tells us that Nicodemus arrived at the foot of Your cross with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes, ready to anoint Your body. I arrive with way more than 100 pounds of: sin, guilt, worry, unworthiness, soul sickness.
Dear Lord, You prayed from the cross that our Father in heaven would forgive those responsible for Your death. Forgive me. I am responsible, too. And because I was not there to see you suffer on that day, because two thousand years separate Your sacrifice from my life, because I have taken my salvation and my Savior for granted, I have reflected too little on Your suffering love. We have railed against our own suffering, asking “Why me?” rather than tapping into Your power and grace.
We have forgotten the Gift Given by the Suffering Servant, our Lord Jesus. Tonight the prophet Isaiah reminded us:
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases…
… he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
Isaiah 52:4a, 5
Accept the cares and burdens and sins we lay before Your cross this night, O Lord. Lift them from us. Now that You are lifted up, draw us to Yourself, as You promised. Make us whole, dear Lord, in both body and soul, make us holy, and make us eternally grateful, we pray. Amen
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham