John – Chapters 18 & 19
What can one say on Good Friday that has not already been said? The story is very familiar to all of us and there are so many great meditations already written, why should I write another? Well, for two reasons—because I can, but really because in order to get into the story, I need to meditate on it. Writing helps me do this.
Our children hated Good Friday. They thought it was gruesome so they didn’t want to go to church that day to be reminded. An old Johnny Hart cartoon comes to mind. In it, Person 1 says: “I hate the term ‘Good Friday!’” Person 2: “Why?” P1. “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.” P2. “If you were going to be hanged on that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” P1. “Good.” P2. “Have a nice day.”
Perhaps, Person 2 should say, “Have a Good day,” but it doesn’t really look or feel like a good day, does it? A Good day almost requires standing on the other side of the cross from where the disciples are standing, and that’s not where we are today. Jesus and his disciples start in a garden. He asked that they stay awake and pray for him and for themselves but they couldn’t stay awake. They will fail again, today. Watch as the story unfolds.
Judas brings soldiers and police to the garden where he knows Jesus is so they can arrest him. Was that a glance between Judas and Jesus? Even though, Jesus knows what is happening, this must be a blow. We, his disciples have no clue. What are we thinking, now? We don’t understand all of his teaching, but we have seen the works of God that Jesus has done. Are we wrong about Jesus being the Messiah? Why is he being arrested? Why doesn’t he stop this? Peter, again, takes matters into his own hands, draws his sword and cuts off a slave’s ear. Jesus rebukes him and says something about drinking from a cup his Father has given him. What cup?
These, and more, are the stories of today—humiliation stories, rejection stories, abandonment stories, stories of torture, ugly stories. The disciples run away, Peter denies knowing him, the Jewish leaders that he had hoped to turn around rejected him. The women and maybe one or two other disciples watched him die. But, Jesus’ love and purpose transcends his disappointment and pain. And ours. Unconditional love has a way of doing this. This is the story of Love – the greatest Love Story – and this is our story, too.
Questions for reflection: If this is our story, too, what does that mean to me? When can’t I stay awake? What am I afraid will happen if I do? What will staying awake require of me? When do I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for God’s purpose to unfold? When do I try to force into being what I believe God’s purpose to be? How have I failed Jesus, lately? Will I ever be able to love like Jesus does?
“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—for me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? – Charles Wesley
(dlw 2014, revised 2017)