Church Matters: Good Friday

Reflections from Dr. Howell

Every year on Good Friday, I keep an eye on the clock, trying to answer the old hymn’s question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Earlier this morning, at 6 am, Jesus endured a mock trial, and was treated cruelly – yet he was peaceful, and “never said a mumblin’ word.” Around 9 am, his wrists and ankles was gashed and shattered by iron nails. His cross was hoisted and then slammed into a hole in the ground. Snide remarks and demeaning laughter echoed all around. At noon, the sky grew eerily dark. Finally at 3 p.m., Jesus breathed his last.

“What wondrous love is this?” Julian of Norwich offered this moving thought: “The love which made him suffer surpasses all his sufferings, as much as heaven is above the earth.” This evening, in worship, we will read and reflect on the profound words of the prophet Isaiah: He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Surely he has borne our grief, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, with his stripes we are healed. He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter; they made his grave with the wicked, although he had done no violence (Isaiah 53).

Without the holy, divine love, without God’s eternal plan to use this day to bridge the chasm between heaven and earth, without God’s merciful determination to share in our sufferings and redeem us, this Friday would be relegated to the history books, perhaps with a sad title like Dark Friday, or Tragic Friday. But we dare to call it “Good Friday.”

In the throes of death, Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Doesn’t this leave us space to cry out in the darkness when we seem forsaken by God? God did not remain safely aloof in heaven, but God entered into human suffering at its darkest. Just as Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, so God envelops us in a love that even death could not defeat.

Be still, and quiet, as much as you can this day. Ponder the suffering, and love embodied in the Cross.