Good Friday 2022
Yesterday we recalled the Last Supper Jesus ate with his disciples. We recalled his betrayal and arrest. We recalled that the disciples were left alone, feeling abandoned as everything they had lived for over the past three years was stripped away from them.
Yesterday we recalled the onset of COVID in our community. We recalled the last holy meal we shared together in this place. We recalled a shutdown and isolation that was to last until who knew when. We recalled that it felt like everything was being stripped away from us.
Both we and the disciples were left alone and lonely.
Today we once again relive the Passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. Through the reading of the Passion story we can see that this was a political act. The Jews – and here I need to strongly point out that the term, “the Jews,” is specifically directed at the political leaders and not the Jewish people as a whole – the political leaders, in particular Annas and Caiaphas, and a few others of the High Council, wanted Jesus gone. Remember it was early in the Gospel of Mark, in Chapter 3, where the Pharisees were conspiring to destroy Jesus. After working with Judas and having Jesus arrested and trying him in a kangaroo court, the Jewish leaders send him off to Pilate on trumped up sedition charges. While he was with Pilate those same leaders whipped up the crowd to a frenzy and got them to call out for the release of Barabbas, an actual insurrectionist and murder. Bowing to that pressure, Pilate eventually sentenced Jesus to death. In short, Jesus was put to death by Rome and those political leaders who influenced that decision. The death of an innocent man was on the hands of political leaders looking for a way to solidify their positions by getting crowds to back them no matter how wrong they were.
In our own COVID time, political leaders used that situation to whip up crowds, sometimes into a frenzy, in support of actions that had deadly consequences. Pushing false narratives for any number of treatments that were ineffectual at best and deadly at worst, innocent people died for the political expediency of a few. Thousands more died due to the politicization of mask use and conspiracy theories all in the name of freedom but none in the name of compassion.
The disciples were left alone and abandoned as events beyond their control swept them away along with the current. And when I say disciples, I mean the men. While they abandoned Jesus during this time in an effort to save their own lives, the women stayed with him, following along on the way to Golgotha and staying at the foot of the cross while Jesus died. So it was not only the disciples who were alone and abandoned, but it was also Jesus who was left alone and abandoned by his closest friends.
In our own COVID times, hundreds of thousand of people who contracted the virus, and their family and friends, were left alone and abandoned. Families and friends had people taken away from them, placed in isolation, unable to be with them. But it was the nurses, primarily women, who were with the dying, remaining in silent vigil at the foot of those beds.
Good Friday forces us to confront our complicity in the death of Christ. There are so many little ways we participate in that, but there is also the very prominent way we participate in his death by refusing to stand up against injustices done to the less powerful, the voiceless, the minorities, the different.
As we look back on COVID times, we need to also confront how we may have been complicit in COVID deaths. Did we hold leaders accountable for pushing false narratives? Did we speak out when people were berated for following mask mandates? Did we, or do we, speak out against injustices done to the less powerful, the voiceless, the minorities, the different?
Good Friday is not only about the death of Christ, but it reminds us that those in power will use that power to trample down and eliminate any threats to them, real or perceived.
On this Good Friday may we remember not to use our voices to follow earthly powers and desires, but to use them to lift up those whom Christ lifted up. May we work to give sight to the blind, help the lame walk, cleanse the sick, and bring good news to the poor. May we work to raise the valleys and lower the mountains.
On this Good Friday, more than anything else, may we remember that confronting injustices as Christ did is never the popular position, and his crucifixion proves that. On this Good Friday, may we have the courage to follow Christ, the strength to stand up in the face of injustice, the patience to minister to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy, and all with such humility that our actions point to him who stretched out his arms of love on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come with the reach of his saving embrace.