Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday Reflection: The Long Day

Mark 15:27-47

It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,  he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

Unending sorrow.  Cries of pain.  Shouts of hatred and anger.  Weeping women.   A wail of despair from Jesus.  Moans.  Evil.  The smell of death.

The air must have been heavy and thick with darkness.  Not just physical darkness but spiritual. Satan and his demons were there, cackling with victory.  Even as his final breath left his body, mocking words followed his dying ears, "Let him call on the prophet Elijah to get him down."

I'm saddened and sickened at the treatment this man who never did an unkind thing received.  He was killed by evil men.  It was not just, nor was it fair.  It was horrible and horror-filled.  It was sickening.

Yet, it was part of God's plan.  Jesus took on the weight of all our sins and evil.  He endured the most evil device of death in order to be the ultimate sacrifice.  His body hung naked on that cross all day.  A totem pole of our sins.  A beacon of what the evilness of men could do. 

When Joseph asked for the body of Christ, Pilate's response was callous surprise and indifference that he died so quickly.  As quickly as this man pronounced judgment, he forgot all about Jesus.

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in linen and laid Jesus in the tomb.  As the boulder was pushed into place, the finality of his death must have felt like another blow to Jesus' mother and friend.

It was over.  It was finished.  God's Son was dead.

The small band of people at the grave may have forgotten or not quite believed Jesus' words that he would rise again after three days.  In their finite and human minds this was an impossibility that would not happen. 

The long day was over.  Night was upon the earth.  Darkness was in their hearts.  They were crushed and broken.  Sorrowful and sickened.  The death of Christ brought the death of their hopes and dreams. 

When I think of this sacrifice made and the fact that sin, others and my own, caused him to go through this, I feel saddened.  But I also feel grateful for this gift.  A gift freely given so that I may live with Him one day.  A sacrifice made so I can have a changed life.

But how often do I take it for granted?  I stumble and sin on a regular basis.  I go through my days and barely think about it.  I toss the gift aside when I continue to live any way I want to without a thought of how indifferent I am to the giver.

I don't want to take the sacrifice for granted.  I don't want to be careless and thoughtless about this gift.  I want to treat it as the precious act it was.  The sacrifice was made for you and for me.  Let's make sure we live our lives in a way that doesn't make that sacrifice meaningless.

Lord, help me to truly understand the sacrifice and that long day of pain and suffering you endured so that I may live a life worthy of that sacrifice.