This is a reflection for Good Friday, given in the “church next door.” The Scripture it references is John 18 & 19. During this service, the passion narrative was sung immediately before this reflection was given; it is not the usual practice to sing the gospel in this parish, and so for the people present it was an encounter in a new mode.
It’s very different hearing the gospel like that, isn’t it? It’s certainly very different for me, to sing it like that, rather than simply reading it out loud or silently to myself.
What I noticed the most – apart from just how long that reading really is – is the incredible complexity of emotion in it. As I had to figure out how to breathe, where to put the emphasis, where to pause, and so on, it was the emotions in the story which came to life for me.
The passion narrative is, I think, too long and complex for us to take it all in, in one go. But I think each of us is probably able to find one emotion which somehow resonates with us at this point in time.
So rather than give you a long sermon, today I’m simply going to encourage you to feel your way through the emotions of the story, and see where your own heart responds.
- Is it at the gut wrenching betrayal of Judas, the betrayer, standing with the soldiers?
- Is it at the frustration of Peter, so keen to do the right thing, but being told off for cutting off another man’s ear?
- Is it with Peter’s fear of discovery, which leads him to lie three times?
- Is it with the puzzlement of Pilate, faced with a situation – and a person – he simply cannot grasp?
- Is it with the hot anger of the crowd, demanding the release of Barabbas?
- Is it with the soldiers, agents of a brutal power caught up in something over which they have no control?
- Is it with Mary, the mother of a suffering child?
- Is it with Mary Magdalene, watching her hope die?
- Is it with Joseph and Nicodemus, undertaking a last duty of care for a kinsman?
- Is it with Jesus himself, enduring what must happen for the sake of something bigger?
- Is it, perhaps with some other person in the story, often overlooked but significant for a reason that matters to you?
My encouragement to you today is to let your emotions be your guide to this story. That’s the point of connection and relevance to your own life; that’s where it will come alive for you.
So find that point of emotional contact. Carry it with you to Sunday morning. Find a few quiet minutes to sit with it and talk to God about it. And then come back here, to see how it’s answered in the new light and hope of the resurrection. Because we’ll only know the full power of the new morning, when we’ve allowed ourselves to feel the weight of the darkness of this day.