When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him… Luke 23:33 (NIVUK)
The evening was getting worse. Jesus was betrayed. One by one he was abandoned by his disciples and left to face a sham trial alone. He was beaten. Mocked. Ferried between Herod, Pilate and the Sanhedrin. Bound as a common criminal, he was treated no better than an animal. Exhausted, wounded, and humiliated, the Son of God was crucified. He died an agonising, slow and public death, surrounded by mocking enemies, a heartbroken family and a few disciples watching from the edge of the crowd.
These are not easy things to think about. It is uncomfortable to dwell on pain and suffering. It is hard to silently reflect on what it meant for Jesus to go through all of this. It’s around this point that I want to jump ahead in the story – after all, we know how this ends: Jesus rose on the third day conquering sin and death, that’s the bit I want to think about.
Perhaps, for a moment, I need to place myself in the shoes of the disciples. They had no idea how it would end. For them, this really was the end. Can you imagine the fear, the confusion, and the horror they felt seeing this happen to Jesus? Can you imagine the bleak darkness that overtook them? Can you imagine the despair they felt as their world crumbled before their eyes?
During the time we call Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we are being asked not to skip ahead in the story to its resolution, as we are so often tempted to do in our world of instant gratification. Rather we are being encouraged to stay the course – to sit for a while with the pain, grief, and loss.
Why would a loving Father allow the disciples to go through a period of such darkness, and why do we as followers of Jesus have to experience dark times? Maybe it is in these moments that we realise just how lost and alone we are without Jesus. We realise how harsh, and brutal and cold our world is without him. Just imagine a world where death is the last word, where there is no meaning or purpose to life – this is where the disciples were at.
So, let’s not skip past Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This is not the end of the story, but there is no story without them; without the cross there is no resurrection. We must be prepared to sit with the story as it happened, and in the process our stories are grafted into Jesus’s story. We too go through dark and painful times in our lives, times when character is forged and testimonies are written, but it is not the end of the story.
Today is Friday, but Sunday is coming.
Have a reflective Good Friday and Holy Saturday.