Good Friday is the most solemn day of the Christian calendar. It is in every way an antidote to a view of Christianity that is too sweet and shallow to grapple with the realities of existence. Good Friday sees, in concentrated form, the evil and darkness that damages God’s good creation. In following Christ, we are called to abstain from illusions. We are being reminded to not turn away from what happens in our world.
The reading from Isaiah is the fourth, and most familiar, of the Servant songs. It is rich in theological complexity and depth. Yet even more profound is the depth of emotion it evokes. To read it closely is to be pulled into the darkness, and to feel its threat to us.
Psalm 22 completes this journey. Its opening line is given voice by Jesus on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Generations of thinkers have struggled with the theological question of what it means for God to forsake and abandon His Anointed One. More pointedly, generations of believers have struggled with what it means when they or others suffer to the sounds of what seems to be God’s silence. There are answers to these questions, but we Christians should never accept the easy ones. Good Friday is a witness against that. We do indeed suffer. So too, does our God, and Savior.
The passage from Hebrews acknowledges this suffering, but gives a shape and purpose to it. Likewise, we are being told, are our hearts to be shaped in response to this great mercy.
Today’s Gospel reading is the account from John of Jesus’ final hours. Here events move swiftly as dark currents of political power and personal betrayal come crashing down together onto Jesus. Although these currents are born of weakness and corruption, they are powerful. Against them, Jesus will stand with only the Divine power of love, humility, and obedience.
On Good Friday, it will seem that this is not enough. It will appear that the dark powers of cruelty, and jealousy, and lust for control will have won.
For the light of the world will be dead, and laid in a tomb.