I enjoy reading Naked Pastor’s blog. His cartoons/comics/art always make me think. Today, he reflects on Good Friday with a bit of a grin.
At its most basic, Good Friday was a dark day when a leader and friend was unjustly sentenced to execution for living out and speaking for a different kind of society and world. He was killed by a system that was good at stamping out threats. He was killed by his own people’s insensitivity or inability to see what was in front of them. He was killed by a crowd whipped up in a frenzy. He was killed by us, humanity, all of us.
It is a dark day… and yet, the light that peeks in comes from the realization that even in someone’s death, life can emerge. This man’s death was not the final word. The movement didn’t end. Something else happened.
Journey in the darkness now. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday at the Table, and during worship, we will explore Jesus as Messiah. Messiah means “anointed”. It comes from the Hebrew Bible originally as a way to talk about those who would eventually become kings and had been anointed by prophets (or God) to lead God’s people. The Gospels in the New Testament seem to paint a broad picture of people hungry for a messiah, an anointed one to come and throw off the yoke of the Roman empire. This is all fueled by the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke of a suffering servant or fulfillment of God’s plan in a person who would restore Israel’s fortunes and bring about restoration (spiritually and politically).
Wow, I know that’s a lot of words.
In a sense, I break it down like this:
- The people had expectations for this person who was going to change their situation. I see parallels in the way we look to others to solve our problems or give us wisdom to live our lives by. A Messiah, in our modern day, could easily be a politician, preacher, spouse, boss, family member, product inventor, salesperson, or activist.
- The challenge with a messiah is that such a person was called by God not the people. In other words, their agenda is likely different than the people’s expectations. Like an elected official who votes for a bill that his constituents are against (even if it makes sense and is helpful to those they serve), these conflicting realities rarely lead to good times.
- If someone we pick as a messiah to save our college basketball program, church, organization, business, city, or country doesn’t live up to expectation, it’s pretty easy for us to latch on to a new messiah and toss the old one out. However, if we keep doing that, we are likely to go nowhere. It’s not that we need to put up with bad leadership – it’s sometimes not the leader that is the problem.
- Jesus was a weird Messiah anyway. He was clear with his disciples that he was going to be put to death by the hands of the empire and the people. Still, no one seemed to get it. They were so eager to put their own expectations on him, that they failed to listen and realize the deeper thing Jesus was about – ushering in a new reality, a new kingdom, on earth. Like the clip above, did those crowds listen or did they hear what they wanted to hear?
- Finally, Jesus’ parade (or death march) ultimately led to a confrontation of all that is evil and all that is broken about the human condition and our world. Kind of funny that few people seemed to think of that as something their messiah might be about… and yet, isn’t it a lot better than just overthrowing an empire?
If you want to join the conversation tomorrow with some of your own questions or perspectives, join us tomorrow at the Table, 9:30 AM, in the Community Room.
Good Friday is the darkest day of the church year. On this day, we recognize that Jesus was tortured and finally nailed to a cross, where he died a miserable, lonely death. Even according to the Gospel accounts, there were not many people gathered there to witness this painful, excruciating form of execution – maybe a few guards, some curious onlookers, and a handful of family and friends.
Jesus was abandoned.
Think about the despair he must have felt. Abandoned by his disciples. Abandoned by the crowds who had once supported him. Abandoned even by God, leading him to cry out in those final moments – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Perhaps fittingly, Good Friday is not the most popular day on our church calendar. It’s depressing. It’s dark. There are no hallelujahs. There are no praise songs. We often cover the table and the cross in black cloth. We sit in silence, in the emptiness of our lives, and wait with Jesus as he struggles to even take breath.
Theologians suggest, over and over, that God presents to the people in the Bible choices between life and death. Do you choose the things of this world that bring death, or do you choose to find the new life even in the midst of the darkness? (I love this video by Walter Brueggemann that lays this out rather clearly.) In other words, how can we have Easter without Good Friday? How can we celebrate and praise God unless we have gone through the pit, the fire, and the darkness that comes as part of life?
Take a moment today to reflect on that question, and be with Jesus on the cross.
Maybe Easter will feel a little different on Sunday in return.
Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com