A devotion for the Friday of Holy Week
by Rev. Todd R. Lattig
Director of Mission and Pastoral Care, United Methodist Communities at Bristol Glen
Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28 – 19:42
I cannot believe that this has happened! Where is my friend, O Lord, that I may once again laugh with him? Where is my teacher, O Lord, that may one again learn from him? Where is my, King, O Lord, that I may lay down my palm branches in praise before him again? Hope eternal seems to have finally died.
Early this morning, the chief priests sent Jesus to Pilate who tried Jesus as a traitor. He put on a dog and pony show, a mock trial, feeding off of the crowd. He patronized them and got them to give him the verdict that he would’ve come to anyway. Jesus was to be flogged, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified. They made his broken body carry the cross beam up to Golgotha. What a terrible, terrible day.
He looked so disfigured, so bruised and bloodied. His flesh was torn and there was blood everywhere. They even put a crown of thorns on his head, calling out in mockery, “Hail to the King of the Jews!” When they got him here to Golgotha, they laid his body down and drove nails into his hands and his feet and rose him up on the cross. I will never be able to erase the shrieking sounds of horrid pain and agony that came out of his mouth.
Wait a second…I believe he is trying to speak. Yes, he’s having a hard time, but he is trying to speak. “Forgive them…Father…f-f-for they know n-n-not what th-th-they do.” Even now, he is still forgiving. How can he forgive them for what they’ve done? Even in the face of senseless evil, he is showing the grace he always talked about. “My G-G-God, my God, wh-why have you f-f-forsaken m-m-me! It…is…f-f-finished. In…to your…h-h-hands…I c-c-commit m-my s-s-spirit.”
O dear God. I think he has died. His head just dropped to his chest and his body is slouched and lifeless. O, my Lord, how could you have abandoned your servant in his hour of need? Couldn’t you have done something, anything, to bring life back to your Son? Why are you so silent in his hour of need. Why are you hidden behind the dark veil of clouds that ominously loom above us? “You have seen, O LORD; do not be silent! O Lord, do not be far from me!” (Psalm 35:22)
Reflection: Can you imagine the pain and the suffering that Jesus felt in his last hours on earth? Can you imagine the feeling of abandonment, hopelessness and loss? Can you put yourself in the shoes of Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and watched her teacher, who numbered her equally as among his disciples, slowly suffocate to death and succumb to the brutality that was mercilessly inflicted upon him? Can you put yourself in the shoes of his mother who was left to do the one thing that every parent hopes will never pass…to bury her son?
We all have moments where this world seems to deal blows that are far too much for us to handle. We have all had our share of darkness, doubts, and despair. We have all tasted the bitter flavor of Sheol, in one way or another. We have all found ourselves staring down into the pit, wondering if there is any hope of escape.
Let not your heart be troubled, for there is hope. The story does not end with Sheol, the story does not end in death. Just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so too are we resurrected him. And the beauty of it is that you do not have to wait to die to share in that resurrection. You can experience the new life God has awaiting for you right here and right now. You can inherit the Kingdom of God in this life as well as in the next.
All you have to do is surrender all of yourself to God and breathe in the hope, the healing and the wholeness that comes in knowing that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Die to the despair and hopelessness that this world has to offer. Die to the inner trappings of the minutia we find ourselves caught up in and take a long, deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Breathe in the life that God is offering you and carry that life, and the good news of it, to those in need around you.
Take this moment to meditate and pray.