Good Friday Reflection
I didn’t know what I was doing, really. I just got caught up in the excitement of the occasion! I heard them coming, and I went out to see what the commotion was. A melee of people, moving down the Mount of Olives, a buzz of constant shouting in the distance, not in anger but in…joy. Others joined me to see what the fuss was, and before we knew it we were a crowd, waiting for this other crowd. As they drew near, moving through the valley and up the slope towards Jerusalem, I saw him – a man, riding on a donkey. Nothing unusual about that. What was unusual is what the crowd were doing. They were pulling down tree branches and spreading them before him. They were taking off their cloaks and throwing them in front of him and his donkey.
We lined the roadside, as if a King were passing by! Maybe one was, because the crowd that came with him kept shouting: ‘Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in highest heaven!’
As I said, I didn’t know what I was doing, but before I knew it I was shouting aloud too: ‘Hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna to the King!’ That’s what you do, isn’t it? You go along with a crowd. You join in. So I did. Even before we knew who it was, we were shouting. Before the crowd that went with him told us it was Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth, a man whose reputation for doing remarkable things goes before him, we were yelling out. And we wondered, some of us, whether he really could be the one promised by the prophets of old? Could he be Messiah? Then, I more or less forgot about it – until this morning.
Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing. We were gathered outside the palace of the governor, Pilate. He was giving us the choice between two prisoners – one would be released and one would be executed. To my amazement, one of them was Jesus, and he already looked in a bad way. And Pilate asked us which one he should release. The crowd roared back, ‘Free Barrabas, free Barrabas.’ That went on for some time. When the noise died down, he asked, ‘What do I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ The crowd shouted louder than ever: ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ I was aghast – even more so when I heard myself going along with the crowd, shouting: ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’
And now they have. Now we have. Now I have. As I said, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Now I find myself looking at the cross, the dead body of Jesus upon it, wondering, ‘What have I done?’
The thing is, he gasped out a few words as he hung there, dying. ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.’ Did I know? I just went along with the crowd. I didn’t mean for a man to die, not this man! Could God really forgive me?
As the end drew near, and his agony increased, he cried out, ‘Eloi, eloi, lama, sabachthani.’ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ It was agony watching, hearing, never mind the agony of being on the cross. And I wondered how could God let him die like this?
Finally, he spoke his last: ‘It is finished.’ Then he breathed his last.
Now I stand here wondering. Is it finished? Is it finished for Jesus? Is it finished for me?
Buckingham Parish Church
30th March 2018