Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection April 14, 2019
"Good Friday Reflections" by - Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
As we prepare to endure another Good Friday, I find myself again wondering what’s so “Good” about it? The brutal execution of Jesus Christ cannot easily be considered as something “good.”
It starts with Judas, a name that will always live in infamy. Betrayer! Why? Why did Judas sell out his Master? For some few silver coins? And Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss! At that time, there were three levels of closeness - a public handshake revealed the lowest level of intimacy and closeness – followed by an embrace – followed by the highest level of intimacy and loyalty – the kiss. To betray someone with a kiss would be seen and has been seen throughout the centuries as the worst form of betrayal.
Why did Judas do what he did? Was it only for money? Had Judas grow disillusioned with Jesus? We’ll never know this side of the veil. Yet we might well ponder our own willingness to betray those people and things dearest to our hearts.
Do we always seek and speak the truth? Do we always seek the way of honesty over against the way of deceit? Can our word be trusted? Are we faithful to what we have promised? Are we faithful to our families and friends? Are we faithful to our life as disciples of Christ Jesus?
The apostles, minus Judas, accompany Jesus to the Garden on the Mount of Olives. The apostles Peter, James and John, go with Jesus to the place where Jesus will pray on this last night before his death. Jesus asks Peter, James and John to pray for him and with him. But what do they do? They sleep.
The three-favored apostles fall asleep three separate times and need to be awakened again, again and again. They are unable to do what Jesus asks them to do.
We too might ask ourselves if we can do what Jesus asks us to do. Can we share in his healing of the world? Can we share in his proclamation of the Good News of God’s Kingdom? Can we stay awake?
Jesus is in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and is in need of comfort and consolation. Yet he finds no comfort – no consolation. He finds only sleeping disciples. Do we, as Christians, comfort those who need comfort? Do we, as Christians, console those in need of consolation?
If we claim to be disciples, we must comfort and we must console. We must neither judge nor bully. We must stand with all who feel alone in our wounded world. We must hold hands together as brothers and sisters in solidarity. We must never sleep when Our Lord asks us to stay awake!
When the arrest happens, Jesus is brutally hauled away under the cover of night. The disciples flee in panic. The trial will soon occur. It will be a trial like so many others. Lies will be spoken under oath. Those sitting in judgment will decide on the basis of what is politically expedient rather than what is right and just.
Those sitting in judgment will imagine themselves possessing the power needed to condemn a man of peace, a man of God, to death. With deadly arrogance, they sit in judgment on the Prince of Peace. They will give the crowd what it wants – a spectacle. They will allow the shouts of hatred to deafen them to righteousness. They will allow cruelty to overcome justice again.
Yet in all of this Jesus trusts. He trusts without hesitation in what God as Father wills for him. He has placed himself totally in the hands of God’s goodness and love. Will not each of us – in the end – have to do the same? Do we, as faithful followers of Christ, possess the courage to face our own agonies, our own Gethsemanes?
The day we call Good Friday is filled with every kind of horror, every kind of injustice and cruelty, every kind of betrayal. It’s a good day to wonder how often will Christians fight Christians before we see the horror of it? How often will Christians condemn others in the name of Jesus Christ? How much longer will Christians justify hatred and enmity? How much longer will Christians defend the indefensible?
We behold our Savior, silent before his accusers! The chief priests and elders ask if he is the Messiah, if he is the Son of God. Jesus could have said no and the trial might have ended. But Jesus had to speak the truth. He could not lie even if it meant his release. Jesus says “yes” – he is the Messiah and the Son of God. And this truth seals Jesus’ fate. He will be given over to the Romans for execution. The cross has now become a certainty.
Pilate, the Roman procurator, beholds Jesus before him. The priests and members of the Sanhedrin know that Pilate will not listen to any talk of blasphemy. Pilate would send them away with a warning not to bother him over such religious matters. So they bring the charge of sedition, of claiming to be the king of the Jews, a deadly charge.
Jesus stands before Pilate innocent yet already condemned by hatred. Jesus came to us as one without sin, filled only with the love of God, yet the world could not accept what Jesus offered. The question remains: Will we accept what Jesus offers? Will we live our lives in peace and love instead of violence and hatred?
Jesus is crucified to reveal to us how far God’s love is willing to go. Good Friday is good, it is life-giving, because in Christ on the cross, we witness an all-consuming love. We witness a Love willing to be wounded for us, a Love able to be pierced asunder with a soldier’s lance, a Love willing to be executed for the sake of love. It is this Love which saves us.
Good Friday invites us to enter the wounds of Love-Incarnate. If we enter those grace-filled wounds, we find a new way of life. Standing beneath the cross, we wash in the blood and water flowing from the side of our Crucified God. This bath cleanses us and heals us! Good Friday, indeed!