May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
I was recently talking with a friend about his mother’s death.
She had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And for weeks leading up to her death, as the family kept vigil in their house, they heard a multitude of hushed conversations, even though it was just my friend and his family there.
It got us talking about this concept of the cloud of witnesses, which shows up in the Book of Hebrews. During those last days of his mother’s life, it was as if the veil between heaven and earth was thin.
And these quiet voices were the faithful ones who had already passed on, waiting for my friend’s mother to join them.
When the family returned home after the mother’s funeral, they were struck with a strange sensation.
Total, unrelenting, silence.
This house that had felt full with the love of family and the presence of ancestors, now felt utterly desolate. The days and months and years of mourning were long, made even longer by the visceral sensation of absence.
When I began preparing my reflection for today, I kept asking the question, “What makes this Friday Good?”
How could the chaos and suffering of Jesus’ crucifixion be good?
How could this profound betrayal of friendship be good?
How could the anxiety and fear that the disciples experienced be good?
How could Mary’s tears be good?
What is good about death? Especially unjust and untimely death?
In my frantic search for an answer, I came across an article that said that some Christians used to refer to this day, not as Good Friday, but as Long Friday.
And after reading today’s Passion narrative, that rings very true. Because, like my friend who experienced that seemingly endless, stark silence after his mother’s death, this day must have felt long to everyone who loved Jesus.
From his arrest in the garden to his prosecution. From his long walk carrying the cross to his final words, “It is finished.”
His loved ones were caught up in the chaos of preemptive grief from the moment the day began to unfold.
Then, after he died, these loved ones were carried against their will into the long silence of his absence.
This day was long. It was beyond bearing. It felt meaningless.
And all of it was made worse by the fact that the very person they needed most in times of despair was now dead.
Good Friday does not feel good. It feels long with the silence of the burdens that we carry.
But, as we mourn the death of Jesus today, we remember that we worship a God who is intimate with grief. We gather at the cross of a Savior who understands our suffering, because he felt suffering in his own body. And we are made into a family in this community of Christ’s church.
The day is long. The silences can feel unbearable. But it is good that we can be the cloud of witnesses for one another. And it is good that the God who created the universe sits with us at the foot of the cross.