It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle. Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time… It was the Preparation Day for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was quickly approaching. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it, then they went away and prepared fragrant spices and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath, in keeping with the commandment.
Luke 23:44-46, 54-56 (CEB)
A lot of ink and words have been spilled and uttered surrounding the observance of Good Friday. And while it’s tempting to want to find that next great insight that will sky rocket this blog out of the depths of random entries to influencer status, today’s post isn’t about that. In fact, I’m not sure what it’s entirely about (probably not the best way to start a blog post…), but I had the urge to write, and so, here we go.
A day marked by darkness, death, and silence.
Maybe it’s fitting that in Michigan today we’ve retreated back into the cold, bleak grayness of winter. The wind is howling, the rain seems close to turning to snow, and it’s April 15th…
And as I look around the news headlines, this is what dominates the airwaves:
• Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine continues.
• Political divides are only increasing in the USA.
• Conflict & human rights violations silently remain in the Middle East.
• A Michigan community mourns, laments, angers, & reacts to a police shooting.
• Loved ones close to us have passed away.
• And the list could go on and on and on…
Shades of Darkness.
Sadness of Death.
Lent is almost over, but not quite yet. For the past 40+ days our journey has been with Jesus through the wilderness, as we learn to lay aside our selfish desires, as we have the pseudo gods and goddesses we pursue stripped away from us. Journeying through the wilderness is no easy task, and it reminds us that left to ourselves, we’d wander about in circles hopelessly for 40+ years. Many of us are tired, many of us are wearied, many of us feel like the past 2 years has been a 40 year journey through the wilderness.
And yet, on Good Friday, we’re reminded that there’s one more stop before us on this Lenten journey…the cross. In our eagerness to jump to the celebrations of Easter, let us not forget this final stop in the wilderness, for it’s here that we learn what it truly means to surrender everything.
I find it interesting that in his call to discipleship, the one thing Jesus commands his followers to pick up and carry is their cross (see Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Not once in a while, not every couple weeks, but daily. As cross-bearing people, we learn and re-learn what it means for us to die to ourselves, to not to be the center of our own world, to love God & neighbor above ourselves.
As the pastor of a church plant in its infancy, there’s a lot of dying to self that happens in the Lent-Easter season. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other churches in the area that have the resources and manpower to host community events or large celebrations. It’s tempting to try and over-market Jesus. It can be defeating to stare reality in the face.
But pursuit of of the alternate means abandoning the wilderness, following a different call, and placing my own “award winning” insights above the creativity, power, and potential of the Creator of all things (Honestly, it sounds kind of silly when you spell it out that way, yet we constantly do it in life…).
In Luke’s capturing of the events of Good Friday, the day is marked by political unrest and earth-covering darkness. The night is marked by the silence of Sabbath rest.
Something I learned this year (not sure why I didn’t know it before) is that the season of Lent technically ends on Holy Saturday. Our journey through the wilderness ends not in celebration, but in darkness, death, and silence.
Yes, Sunday is coming, but first we must navigate the darkness, encounter death, and listen to the silence.
As noted above, there’s a lot to reflect upon this Good Friday. May we do so as a people shaped by the cross. May we do so as a people who’ve learned to navigate the wilderness journey, not by looking inwards to ourselves or outwards towards others, but upwards to the God who sustains and sanctifies us with his amazing grace.
A short Good Friday prayer:
“Yes, Sunday is coming, but first, O Lord, give us the courage to walk through the darkness, the strength to face death, and the stillness to sit in silence.”