Nobody comes in to ask me: when is your Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service? Lots of “When is Easter Sunrise?” Everyone wants to skip the hard parts. I can’t blame them, but that’s not how this works. Nobody wants to sit in church. Everybody wants to come to the beach. Such is the world we’ve inherited.
I’m glad you’re here, we’re together, and we can ask the hard questions. You can’t avoid Good Friday. This is the moment history changes. Most of what happens in the world from this point forward is a reaction, in one way or another, to the events of Good Friday. Easter is a response to Good Friday. In one way or another, history begins here. We don’t want to skip one of the most important days in human history.
Good Friday is dense, a multilayered web of events and hours. There are more characters than in most of Shakespeare’s plays. The action moves frequently, and the dialogue can be challenging to follow. Our challenge, now that we are here, is to pull back the layers. What are the things that make Good Friday necessary? “Good” is an adjective that we’ve come to ignore on a day fraught with suffering. Good Friday isn’t exceptional in any conventional sense of the word. That’s not our question this morning. Here’s what we want to know: beyond the action, harassment, and denials; what matters most?
Jesus is completely alone. We talk about loneliness. In truth, we don’t know a thing about being forsaken. Our language is quite limited when it comes to those times we are genuinely by ourselves. An empty house, no noise other than the sounds our bodies make, it’s a strange and unsettling feeling. Some people are very comfortable with that degree of personal space. Others of us can’t handle more than a few minutes without the background noise from a television or radio. Who among us could live without the comforting buzz of our phones? I’m not talking about that kind of loneliness.
Jesus isn’t alone, he’s abandoned. Not only is he taken from his friends and family but they remove themselves from him. That’s what hurts. I can just imagine but if it were me, seeing the people you love deny they know you would hurt worse than death.
How many times did Jesus die on Good Friday? There was Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s betrayal, and on and on. He died more times than I can to count. We read obituaries that tell of people dying at home surrounded by friends and family. Jesus died over and over again in a single day. Why? The people who knew him best got up and walked away. So when we say “Jesus died for us” that’s only partially true. Jesus died because of us. That’s the whole story. It’s the Good Friday we’d like to forget. The more natural path is to move on to Easter show up at Sunrise Service and act like the crucifixion never happened. We can’t do that. That’d be wrong, and we’d be selling ourselves short when it comes to the joy embedded in the emptiness of Jesus’ tomb.
Richard Lowell Bryant