It's been hard to live through Good Friday without church. It's been hard to live the disciplines of Good Friday: to go to the Praetorium where Pontius Pilate sat in judgment, and hostile Jewish church leaders came to him demanding death - the cruelest death the Roman Empire knew, of crucifixion. For weeks and months Priests and Pharisees had been searching for ways to kill God's Son - the very promised Messiah who was the hope of Israel.
Pride and law blinded them to Who He was. They couldn't stand to hear the truth from Jesus Himself or from the multitude of His followers. The church leaders demanded Jesus' death for blasphemy. "He calls Himself God's Son." That was enough. But Pilate, the Roman ruler in Israel, said that wasn't enough. He questioned Jesus. "Are you a king then?" "You say so," Jesus answered.
"I find no cause to crucify Him for you," Pilate said. But their demands rose until Pilate literally "washed his hands," symbolizing his own innocence. "You take Him then." But on the cross Pilate put a sign in three languages: "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
And the nails were driven, and the cross raised, and the torture began.
I read the passage through from John's Gospel. It included three of the "Seven Last Words of Christ" - "Woman, here is your son," His word to His mother, giving her to John the beloved disciple. Then "I am thirsty," and the sour wine given Him. And finally, "It is finished." - The work is done. My purpose fulfilled. And Jesus breathed His last.
It was hard to concentrate on all that. To be there in my heart, seeing, and listening, and feeling the horror of it all - this greatest criminal act in all of history - while knowing Jesus gave His life willingly, His own sacrifice - God's way of coming to earth to finally pour out His love for that broken world. In Jesus.
Strange is the way, right now, we are in isolation, staying away from each other, as our act of love by not passing on the possibility of the coronavirus to our loved ones - or any other human being around us.
It seems backward, but we are trying to do it together - with our churches still proclaiming, "We are the church." Hard work. To do it all. To remember so much. To imagine again, all these 2,020 years later, that awful and wonderful "week that was" and try to be with Jesus, in that place and time, and go through it with Him - ourselves alone - with Jesus so alone.
I am missing the beloved community - the precious company of the church, that means so much to me, and whom I miss so deeply today.
Actually, I miss our own Christian ministry, the company that gathered all those years on this day, to sit through those same three hours Jesus hung on the cross, and listen to the Last Words He spoke.
And, as a minister, to proclaim each year one of those Words, after quoting the scriptures and hearing the great music of the hymn sung, and then lift up the deep meanings of the mighty words for the congregation - from the churches of our community - so that they might be there, too, with Jesus.
Such a deep time for each of the ministers. Each one was lifting up out of him or herself to speak a word given from above. And people sensed that, and were moved by that. It was the heart of Good Friday for us.
I miss the ministers. I miss the people. The dear and beautiful friends, who came year after year to experience that time of the spirit together, at the foot of the cross.
I don't know how Easter will be, how the Glory will come, but, in my soul, I long for the people to be there, with me - and each other - as witnesses and receivers of that holy experience.
I go - to be unfulfilled, and yet fulfilled in a different way, which I must think and pray about.
This weekend is the time for that. I pray it may have become that for you too, as we all tried to do Good Friday, faithfully - so hard and yet so high, and full of hope.
Bless you all, my journey friends.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES