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Good Friday, April 3, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 15:16–41

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. (NRSV)

I write this devotion for Good Friday on the day before Ash Wednesday and just a few days after the execution of twenty-one Coptic Christians. So, by the time you read this, those killings are likely old news. The killing and execution of Jesus is even older news.

It was difficult for me to read the story of Jesus’ last day, the mocking and the derision and the taunting, without thinking of the many executions we have seen in the past year. As a Christian minister, I should have something hopeful to say about it all. But I’m hard pressed. Fortunately, Jesus’ plea from the cross in those final moments—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—holds a kernel of hope for me. And that’s because Jesus, the One who came to show us God’s truest nature, reminds me in his plea that God was forlorn that day and that God cried out and continues to cry out today. God cries out for a world that still hasn’t received Jesus’ teaching of love and grace and of justice, the kind of justice that gives every people a fair share in the world. Today we remember the death of Jesus, and as we do, let us remember the death of innocent victims everywhere and cry out, “My God, my God.” But then, let us also remember what we know and grab onto it again, that death is not the end of the story—not for Jesus and not for those Coptic Christians and not for the many others who have been mocked and derided and dismissed and murdered. It’s not. It just can’t be. Come, Lord Jesus.

Holy God, be with us this day in our questions and our wondering. Remind us that vulnerability and compassion and distress for the world doesn’t have the power to defeat. Use the sadness of this day to strengthen our resolve to act with justice and love even as we cry out “Why, O God? Why?” Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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