By Bronwyn Leigh Murphy
Lectionary reading for 4/7/2023: Isaiah 52:13-53:12;Psalm 22;Hebrews 10:16-25;Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9;John 18:1-19:42
Selected passage: John 18:1-19:42
Similar to Passion Sunday, Good Friday's lectionary gives us a chance to walk through the stations of the cross, but this time we read the story in John instead of Matthew. Please click the linked scripture above to read the two chapters in the New International Reader's Version on Bible Gateway.
I like things that other people might not. When flying on an airplane, I select the middle seat. In the Starbucks drive through, I order a large iced water. I am totally fine sleeping five hours a night for weeks on end. As far as holidays go, Good Friday may be one of my favorites. How weird, right? With Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving on the calendar, why look forward to Good Friday? After all, there are no neatly wrapped presents under a tree, pastel dresses and ties in church, or exquisitely decorated desserts to eat with family and friends to celebrate such a holiday. Good Friday seems like just a day of lots of suffering and darkness. Hardly inspirational material for a proper celebration. Though the brutality of the Good Friday narrative may tempt us year after year to fast forward to all the joy that is Easter morning, let’s not. Let’s stay right here for now. It is where we see a chaotic, heartbreaking, and magnificent story unfold.
After His grand entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, after the Last Supper, Jesus’s world seemingly falls apart. His beloved disciple, Peter, denies Him not once, not twice, but three times. Arrested and made to carry His own cross, Jesus’ body, mercilessly beaten. His clothes, torn and stolen. Even death could not serve as a shield for violence, as blood flowed from the pierced Savior’s side. And in what seems like an especially cruel detail, Jesus’ mother bore witness to her son’s death. The depth of tragedy takes our breath away like a sucker-punch to the stomach. We find ourselves doubled over, short of breath, our hearts shouting “it’s not fair”. Good Friday was not fair. A gross miscarriage of justice for the One who came to (among many things) heal the wounds of the hurting, to free the captives, to amplify the voice of the marginalized. A death so incomprehensible we try to turn away and not look back.
But if we rush past the shocking events of Good Friday, we miss our chance to come face to face with the unmatched, steadfast love of Jesus. It is here where we see both the humanity and divinity of Jesus on full display in the very moments that begin to alter the entire course of human history. Just as we cannot escape the graphic details of Jesus’ death, we also cannot escape that in these details is when the symphony of God’s great rescue mission builds to its eventual crescendo in the Resurrection. Without Jesus’ death on Friday, there is no resurrection on Sunday. There is no stone rolled away from an empty tomb. There is no conqueror of the grave. Without the darkness of Friday, there is no light on Sunday. On Good Friday, out of His great love for us, He willingly suffered an incomparable sacrifice for the sinner. For you. For me. For the person you love most in this world. For the person you despise most in this world. For all who came before you and for all who come after. There is not one for whom He did not suffer. And for what? For love. Why else but love? Why else but a love so powerful that it transforms both the present age and the age to come? That is a love surely worth celebrating.
To understand the magnitude of Sunday, we need to immerse ourselves in the events of Friday. As we read the Passion narrative, let us resist the desire to disengage and to sanitize what transpired. Every detail of the Good Friday story tells of Jesus’ great love for us. Let us not limit the celebration of Jesus’ love to Easter Sunday alone, but rather celebrate His ultimate act of sacrifice on Friday also. Though the story is messy, God’s love is shown clearly.
God, thank you for your incredible sacrifice that is beyond our comprehension. Thank you for your steadfast love that withstood mockery, beating and death. Give us the courage to sit with the Passion narrative and the curiosity to explore all the ways your love is on full display. And thank you that we know that Friday wasn’t the end of the story. Amen
About the Author
Bronwyn is a credentialed pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, serving at University Covenant Church in Davis, CA. Bronwyn is also a Consultant and Content Contributor for Ability Ministry, helping churches develop sustainable and effective disability ministries. She holds a Special Education teaching credential and tries to spend as much time as she can exploring with her husband and three children.