Friday, April 19              John 19:16-38     Rev. Rachel Heyduck

16 Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. The soldiers took Jesus prisoner. 17 Carrying his cross by himself, he went out to a place called Skull Place (in Aramaic, Golgotha). 18 That’s where they crucified him—and two others with him, one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a public notice written and posted on the cross. It read “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.21 Therefore, the Jewish chief priests complained to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The king of the Jews’ but ‘This man said, “I am the king of the Jews.”’”  22 Pilate answered, “What I’ve written, I’ve written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and his sandals, and divided them into four shares, one for each soldier. His shirt was seamless, woven as one piece from the top to the bottom.24 They said to each other, “Let’s not tear it. Let’s cast lots to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill the scripture, They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. That’s what the soldiers did. 25 Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life.

Why is it called Good Friday? For most of my life, I have wondered why we would ever call this day good. Jesus is so brutally mocked, tortured, forced through town carrying his cross, and then nailed to it to die like a common criminal. The same people that cheered “Hosanna in the Highest,” as he marched into town in defiance, a short few days later are yelling “crucify him.” They sentence him to death! There just does not seem anything “good” about it.

However, it is a really good day. The Oxford English Dictionary states that “good” in this context refers to “a day or season observed as holy by the church,” hence the greeting “good tide” at Christmas or on Shrove Tuesday. The earliest known use of “guode Friday” is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290, according to the dictionary. According to the Baltimore Catechism – the standard US Catholic school text from 1885 to the 1960s, Good Friday is good because Christ “showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing.”

Words change and progress. What used to mean holy, or a day so unique it is set apart; but for most of us good just sounds like it is something to be desired. How do we reconcile this difference? Maybe that is part of the point of Good Friday. We are to sit in the uncomfortable nature of the historical events, and the name reminds us of that.

We are striving to follow God, to live our lives as God has called us to. We are to love each other and love God, show others the grace and peace that Jesus had in the midst of despair.   May we find a way to follow Christ, knowing that it might not be an easy journey, but it will be special and desired in the end.

Prayer: God of love and peace, lead us to know you. Help us to follow you even when we are struggling and give us perseverance along the struggles of life.