Lenten Devotional: Good Friday
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture) 'I am thirsty.' A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
– John 19:28-30
Have you ever sat in a Good Friday service and wondered, "How did we get here?" You find yourself thinking back to only a few months ago where we celebrated the birth of a tiny baby born in a stable and a magical star in the sky. Even further back in the year you read of miracles performed, of fulfillment of the law, and Isaiah's prophesy. There were fantastic Gospel stories and you listened intently as a minister preached on each one. You worship Christ weekly in our beautiful sanctuary. To your right are stained glass windows depicting his life and ministry and yet, somehow you've arrived to this day where we witness his execution.
It's a strange sensation.
Good Friday is a hard day for many, because it's emotionally draining to listen as this monumental figure in your life is tortured and killed.
Good Friday is an easier day for some because it's the one day where they can easily remind themselves that even God has known violence and suffering and understands their own personal struggles.
Good Friday is a little weird because we're called to bear witness to something terrible and gut wrenching, while we acknowledge our own guilt at abandoning our Lord.
It needs to be "weird." It needs to be "special." The one thing we cannot do today is watch and shake our heads. We can't pass smug judgment on first century Jews or on the Roman political scene. This isn't about Jesus and "them," it's about Jesus and "us." This is our story as well. Just because we came along after the deed is done, we are not exempt from its ramifications.
There's a popular Lenten and Good Friday hymn called, "Wondrous Love" and the first verse describes the impact of Christ's death on the cross; how it affects the singer.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
This has always resonated with me because I grew up where folks clutched their chests murmuring "O my soul" in times of tragedy.
This year, respond to Good Friday with utter thankfulness and with genuine wonder at the love of Christ. And if words fail you, I offer you another verse of "Wondrous Love" to sing, pray, and ponder.
And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
and when from death I'm free, I'll sing on;
and when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on,
and through eternity I'll sing on.
Rev. Kelly Staples, Associate Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church