Good Friday

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”[b]

So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:16-27

“Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
“When I survey the Wondrous Cross” vs. 4, by Isaac Watts

Standing at the foot of the cross is a difficult place to be.  We want to avert our eyes, to look away from the agony of Jesus, to move quickly past Good Friday and bask in the resurrection 3 days later.  “We are a resurrection people,” we cry out.  But today’s scripture readings demand our attention.

One of the popular experiences for pilgrims who come to Jerusalem is walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, the traditional route that Jesus took as he carried the cross to Calvary. For Palestinian Christians, this is more than just a symbolic journey; it represents for them the cross that they must carry as they experience the daily reality of oppression and occupation. But they also see in the suffering that Jesus endured a source of hope and strength, an invitation to respond as he responded, in gentleness, non-violence and love.

It seems like everywhere we look these days, we see suffering.  Wars, natural disasters, poverty, disease.  The list goes on and on.  It would be so much more comfortable to avert our eyes, to avoid the suffering, to insulate ourselves in our comfortable worlds and see only Easter morning. But, in his suffering, Jesus reached out to and identified with suffering humanity.  He calls us to do the same.

There is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work, the Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls, he bids us come and die.” A difficult quote for sure, but Bonhoeffer is trying to convey the seriousness of a decision to follow Jesus, a decision that takes us to the cross.  Jesus’ life was lived in perfect obedience to the will of God.  But as we saw at Gethsemane, even Jesus struggled with that obedience.  “Let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but Thine” (Mark 14:36).  Jesus was very much aware that letting go of his own will would lead him to Calvary.

Lord, as we meditate on your suffering, give us eyes to see the suffering that is present in the world around us, not just in far way news stories, but also as experienced by our own friends, families and communities.  Give us strength and courage to respond in lo and compassion, never forgetting the great love that suffered for us on the cross. Amen.

 -Tina Whitehead, United Methodist Volunteer in Palestine and Israel

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