Year A, Good Friday
I have often lamented the fact that in the Episcopal Church (and a lot of churches) we tend to overlook Good Friday. We cram everything into Palm Sunday because people are too busy to come to Holy Week Services. I have come to believe that to fully appreciate Easter, you have to first experience the betrayal, denial and abandonment of Maundy Thursday and the utter desolation of Good Friday. The church adorned with lilies and azaleas is that much more stunning after you have experienced it completely stripped of adornment on Maundy Thursday and then bare on Good Friday. But….this year is different. This year, I feel as though we have spent far too long in Lent– and Easter can’t come fast enough. We have been waiting and waiting, anticipating the worst and hoping that it won’t be as bad as they say it will be.
That feeling of dread and anxiety has given me a better appreciation of what Jesus must have felt. Since he was all knowing, he knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew that he would die a horrible death and not only did he have to bear that horrible weight, but he had to continually explain to his disciples what was going to happen. It’s like those experts today who are constantly warning us of the impending deaths in our nation and warning us about what not to do. Can you imagine having to explain that horrible truth over and over again? Jesus had been anticipating this moment his whole life. I am sure he handled that better than we are handling our current fears, but maybe, just maybe we now have an inkling of what that might have felt like, what Lent is really about.
Much is made of Jesus’ final words in the Gospel of Matthew and Mark. They echo the first line in our Psalm for today, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Some people conclude that despite the fact that Jesus was God incarnate and all knowing, he felt forsaken for that moment. We can never really know. I think he was in agony and expressing something that many around him were experiencing. I don’t think he ever lost his faith.
In the Gospel of John, the Gospel that is typically read on Good Friday, Jesus never asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His last words were, “It is finished.” Now, here is something kind of interesting. The first line of Psalm 22 is: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The last line is: “They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.” You see, the psalm doesn’t end with a desperate cry, but with a reminder that God will finish what he started. God will save. So when Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished.”—it wasn’t a cry of defeat it was a testament to God’s work. God finished what God started.
We are in a dark and scary place in our nation and our world. Here in Virginia, we are still anticipating a peak that could happen in late April or May. We’re really not sure. Either way, I am waking up with chest pains in the middle of the night because of the anxiety around it all. But here’s the thing, the Psalm doesn’t end in defeat and neither does Jesus’ life. The last word for God is always salvation. Yes, the anticipation is a bit of hell on earth, but it will end and in the end, God will save. God will finish what he started.
|By Bob Harper|
*I found a great deal of information and inspiration in many commentaries, but particularly: Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship: Year A, Volume 2, Lent through Pentecost