When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
This is the day they call good
On this day they call good, they took a man like no other before or since. A man they did not understand; who spoke the truth when it hurt; who denounced; gave offence; defended the poor; healed the sick; touched the untouchable; befriended prostitutes but did not make use of them. A man of integrity – who loved.
On this day they call good, they killed a man. They stripped him naked; beat him with iron-tipped whips till the blood flowed free. They vilified, degraded and abused him, ramming thorns of a caricature crown deep into his skull.
On this day they call good, they tied the man to a rough-hewn wooden cross; drove nails deep into the beams through his wrists and ankles, the sound of ripping flesh drowned by shouts of “Crucify!” The pain of rough, cold iron tearing through sinew and vein lubricated by his blood flowing freely, dulled by the throbbing ache in every part of his body.
On this day they call good, the man was frightened. It had been easy to be brave in that bright, warm room, saying that he had already been anointed for burial. Anointed now by his own sweat, blood and tears he was terrified, hanging there, filled with dread, aghast that he had been abandoned, crying out in fear: “My God, why did you abandon me?”
On this day they call good, he bore the torment; withstood the scorn; endured the pain; suffered in silence almost to the end. Not because he wanted to – but had to. Not pointless, mindless violence inflicted on him. He understood the point of it all too well. Our sin.
On this day they call good, he suffered with such dignity that a pagan soldier recognised him. “Truthfully, this man was a son of God.”
On this day they call good, they crucified a man and revealed our God.
That is why we call this day good.
God, when we are misunderstood, grant us forbearance.
God, when we are injured, grant us assistance.
God, when we are in pain, grant us relief.
God, when we are frightened, grant us reassurance.
God, when we feel abandoned, grant us sustenance.
God, when we finally understand, grant us generosity of spirit.
The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon. He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC