It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
How do we read this account of that part of the day the Church calls good? Do we read it as evidence of supernatural forces at work? Evidence that Jesus was indeed God? Perhaps we are inclined to look for theological explanations for Jesus’ death? Or to air our particular theology of atonement (being made right with God).
These are all well-established and legitimate possibilities. But, I wonder if to go in any one of these directions takes us away, however inadvertently, from the humanity of it all – the trauma, the horror, the pain. I wonder what it would be like to imagine ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ acquaintances, his friends. Standing quietly, transfixed, watching the unfolding horror of our dearly beloved friend’s execution.
Fortunately, few of us will ever have to encounter such horror as was the scene of that day called Good. But daily, we live as flesh and blood human beings. We are affected by the pain we witness in others, and by our own experience of suffering. If I’m honest, sometimes I wish I followed a God who would take it all away – or even better still, a God, whose power can obscure the sun to get rid of our everyday Good Fridays and take us straight to Easter Sunday. But that is not what I see when I, like Jesus’ friends, look on.
I see one, suffering the worst of what we humans can inflict on a person. I see one who would not invoke a God of power or a legion of angel armies. I see one who revealed in painful vulnerability a God who rejects violence, force, and coercion. A God who loves so much to risk the ultimate vulnerability – rejection, even death at the hands of the beloved.
We may be in a rush to find God in Sunday’s triumphant acclamations of resurrection and salvation, but God is already with us, today and in every Good Friday experience we go through.
God of every Good Friday, you love us, you know our human pains. When we feel vulnerable, help us to see you with us. May we never seek power, but yield always in the way of love, as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, Amen.
The Rev’d Jonnie Hill, Minister in the Greater Manchester South and Cheshire Missional Partnership