A reflection for Good FridayImagined reflections of Jesus, on the road to the Cross...
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’
'Peace, in the Garden of Gethsemane?? Peace, God’s peace, can be found in the most unlikely places. The turmoil, the anguish are overwhelming. My passion for the world, my passion for my Father, have collided head on with my own frailty, my own mortality, and - yes - my own fears. Yet here, with my Father, in prayer, his immeasurable love lifts me once again, lifts me me out of the fear, to new strength - to new peace. Peace with my mortality, peace with my Father, peace with the world. Now I am ready - ready to face the road ahead, the road to death.'
Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.
'Friends. It’s been good to have my friends these last years. We’ve shared much together, as I’ve nurtured and encouraged them, and stuck with them through some testing moments as a group. Now in this moment I stand face to face with betrayal. Oh, Judas, my friend… Yet it is not mine to condemn the faithlessness in others - it is only to remain faithful to them, always, come what may. Judas, feel my breath on your face - my breath of acceptance, forgiveness, believing the best of you even now… And yes, the other friends are now melting away too - those protestations of fearlessness and commitment seem a long way away now, the manly courage evaporating in the heat of this danger. They may be faithless, but God remains faithful to them, eternally.'
Jesus is judged by Pilate
Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
'There sits Pilate, riven with anxiety about the political decision he’s got to make - his heart moved, his conscience disturbed by the presence of someone in front of him who seems to have all the time in the world. Indeed, I have waited since the beginning of time for this moment of redemption for the world. There is no rush, let things take their natural course… I know people need time to work things out, to make their decisions their own, to find the integrity and resolve they know is in them. And I can give them all the time they need, I can be patient. But how sad that people so often give in, hasten and misjudge - and look what the consequences can be…'
Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
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.
'I understand them, those soldiers - typical adrenaline-filled young men, intoxicated in the moment with the power they hold over this pathetic Jewish rebel. Anger rises in me - but it is anger for them, not at them - anger at the distortion of their true selves that they have become, their slavery to the cycle of violence. Which is why I’m here today, to save them from that, to open up a better way. And so, this moment with me may be the only glimpse of God these young men ever get - seen in my self-control. And they know that’s strength, not weakness.'
Jesus carries the cross
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.
'Joy - can there really be joy today? Certainly there is joy ahead. I know my Father - I know grief cannot be the end. What my Father does he does in superlatives, and the other side of desolating grief must be pure joy. Yes, that lies somewhere beyond. But joy now?? being led out to die?? Well, yes, even now, welling up in precious waves. Between the floods of sorrow and pain, I feel my Father’s love for me even in this. And as I shoulder the burdens of the world, I myself am lifted momentarily by the joy that this will bring the world. Joy, I discover, also comes in the most unlikely places.'
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains,“Fall on us”; and to the hills,“Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
'Sometimes the truth needs to be spoken - how can I not warn them of the traumas yet to come. But it is how it is spoken that matters so much. Gentleness. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ So many things are burdens that needn’t be. My gentle way soothes the sores, sows trust, lifts the heart. Some say it’s not a manly quality. But all my disciples have valued it, the men and the women - and even the toughest ones are showing signs of being more gentle now. Being with me, seeing God in action, is rubbing off.'
Jesus is crucified
And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.
'Generosity is about giving - open-handedly, warmly, freely, without expecting return. Could I give any more than I am right now? No. I am giving my body, my love, my overwhelming affection for the world. I am giving away my power. I am surrendering all those false images of God as the ultimate Controller and Dominator. I am giving the love that fills the universe. I am giving my life.'
Jesus on the cross: his mother and his friend
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
'This is what happens when you are immersed in the love of the Father, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, when every fibre of your being is consumed with love for others. Even when in your darkest hour, kindness to those around you just can’t help leaking out. My mother - oh, how I grieve for her. She bore the Son of God inside her, she bore him into the world, and now she bears my sorrow as only a mother can. I can’t stretch out my arm to embrace her. I can scarcely swivel my head to look into her eyes. Yet my few words cascade down upon her like a waterfall of kindness, immersing her, embracing her. She’s wracked with sorrow but she is safe.'
Jesus dies on the cross
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.
'The last drops of my life are draining away. The chord to my Father is breaking, breaking, down to its final thread… The darkness of death, the darkness of the world is enveloping me. The light is going out… The dawn will come - our light, our love will rise again. But when? How long, how hard will be the night?? Will my Father be with me, or will I be alone? Will it feel an instant - or an eternity?… Greater love has no man - greater love has no God - than this… '
St Paul describes the 'fruit of the Spirit' as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians chapter 5).
The Scripture passages are taken from the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John.