Today we enter the darkness.
We feel the betrayal of Judas, then stand at a distance with Peter, deny Jesus ourselves. Like Peter, we are afraid. What use is there, for all this suffering?
On Good Friday, we enter into it. We stand horrified beside the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We are crushed by the dark.
Tomorrow we suffer the silence.
“Why?” we ask. Why all the suffering? What kind of God demands it? It was not God who cried out, “Crucify him!” It was not God who hammered in the nails. But it was God who accepted that death, who walked willingly toward it, who took on himself the fury and undeserved pain.
Today we watch in horror. (Will this be asked of me?)
Tomorrow we suffer in silence.
We are tempted to rush into Sunday, to decorate with eggs and chicks and sweet jelly beans, to wrap our winter wreaths in flowers. “It’s not about death – it’s about life!” we want to say.
The disciples had to wait three days, and so do we. “Stay with me.” Not just in the garden, but at the cross, beside the tomb. “Stay with me.” Ponder the fact of his suffering and death. Ponder his dying words.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” –in that cry, in that emptiest of spaces, God may be silent but he is present. There is nowhere that he is not. With that cry, Jesus quotes Psalm 22: the psalmist cries out to God and hears no answer “yet thou art holy,” he says; “in thee our fathers trusted…and thou didst deliver them. […] Men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.” Even in the midst of agonizing abandonment, Jesus knows that the final word belongs to God.
“It is finished.” I love what Richard John Neuhaus says about this: “‘It is finished’ does not mean that suffering and loss and the rivers of tears are things of the past. ‘It is finished’ means that they do not have the last word. It means that love has the last word.” (Death on a Friday Afternoon, p. 193)
What is finished is the power of suffering and death to have the last say. When we face ridicule, persecution, ignominy, death: we are not alone, because the Lord has descended to that lonely place. We can unite our pain and fear with his, in hope of resurrection. “It is finished” — but it is not the end.
Do not be afraid to enter the darkness, the silence. Stay with him awhile.
Without a death, there can be no resurrection.
© 2015, 2021 Sarah Christmyer
First published April 3, 2015; Re-published with slight changes 2021.