Gospel Reading can be found by clicking here: John 18:1-19:42
Reflection by Rev. Lee Johnston
On this Good Friday, like no other Good Friday, we remember again the dramatic series of events that led up to the death of Christ. Jesus allows himself to be arrested, and so begins a series of trials. He is passed from soldiers and policemen to Jewish politicians and the Jewish High Priest himself. After they are done with him, he is handed over to Pilate – who ruled over Jerusalem and the Holy Land with the power of Rome behind him. Jesus appears powerless; passed from pillar to post in a game of religious and political treachery, with each inquisitor trying to find reasons to punish him. But at each stage of questioning – at risk of death – he is given the opportunity to deny. Stop talking about being God’s son; Stop talking about a society based on God’s love. That way, you might be shown a little mercy; we, the powerful of this world, will give you a lighter cross to bear.
Peter took that offer, he denies Jesus – but most importantly himself – no less than three times to get off the hook. But Jesus, with the one choice he can make, keeps insisting on who he is and who God is, even in the face of death.
At this time of crisis, we in wealthy countries – often shielded from risk and unexpected illness – have suddenly found ourselves as vulnerable to death as anyone else. We find ourselves helpless to prevent it; we can’t stop the virus; we can’t even leave home unless we have a good reason; we’re being moved from pillar to post by forces and events beyond anyone’s control. At risk of dying, we are face-to-face with tough questions about who we are and what we stand for. Are we those, like Jesus, who keep their integrity when things get scary and suffering becomes real; or do we deny who we are. It’s easy to want to escape, to act irresponsibly as if nothing is going on; it’s easy to ignore the needs of others, focusing only on us and our families.
What’s harder is sticking to who we are, followers of Jesus. The one who kept his integrity, showed love to the end and brought hope that God would overcome death in all of its schemes. In the face of death we are still called to be concerned for our neighbor; to pray for the world; and most of all to hope in the face of the long and terrifying wait ahead. The dark silence of this Good Friday will raise more questions than we’re comfortable with, especially as we spend it apart in our homes. But we can choose to answer those questions with integrity, remembering who we are and most importantly who God is as we wait for light and life to appear again this Easter and beyond.
Send down your abundant blessing, Lord, upon your people who have devoutly remembered the death of your Son in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Grant them pardon; bring them comfort. May their faith grow stronger and their eternal salvation be assured. We ask this through Christ the Lord. Amen.