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ScriptureJohn 18:1 – 19:42

Action:  Read this passage at or near 3pm, the time when Jesus died.  Go into the darkest place in your house.  Turn off all the lights and sit quietly for a few moments.  Imagine the sorrow and pain that Jesus and his followers must have felt that day.

It begins in a garden. Then, betrayal by a friend. A skirmish ensues, followed by an injury. Moments later, bravado turns to denial. Abandoned by his closest friends, Jesus is interrogated at impromptu trials. Unanswered questions lead to rejection. A beating, jeers and ridicule punctuate the shame. Jesus is to be crucified. It is not yet even noon.

My, how things have spiraled.

In the span of but a few hours, everything has changed. Certitude has been replaced by suspicion, and hope has been exchanged for despair. The unthinkable has become a reality. The sun shines at dawn, but no warmth can be felt. Creation is being pulled into a vacuum of death and inescapable darkness. 

The stages of grief emerge, and our thoughts unspool as though read from a script:

“This can’t be happening.”

“We were fools to trust!” 

Perhaps it’s not too late.”

“There is no hope.”

“It is finished.”  

The Darkness at the Crucifixion, Gustave Dore

Our attempts at trying to capture what this day must have felt like fail. Who among us can truly appreciate the terror of the moment? We read the familiar story, and we reach for meaning across the centuries. It’s hard for us, truly. We know how the story ends. We know that darkness may win the day, but it does not win the weekend. We know that “Sunday’s coming,” so we watch these events from the vantage point of privilege. 

No, we cannot know the depths of Christ’s horror because we were not there. But many of us know terror. We know dying. We know loss. We know injustice, and we know betrayal. We know what it feels like when things spiral out of control.

Yes, we are privileged with hope. That’s why we call it Good Friday.  

– Jeff Mathis, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylva