Good Friday Stories

Throughout Lent, we have been on a journey with Jesus toward the cross. It’s a journey that he knew was coming. Jesus intentionally chooses this destiny in Mark 10 when he “sets out for Jerusalem”; a decision that will cost him everything.

Today is our invitation to be present in this story. We don’t just want to read the narrative again. We want to live it alongside Jesus and his disciples. Come along with Mary and Peter, as they experience the loss, the questions, the confusion of those who didn’t understand what was happening on the Thursday and Friday of Holy Week.

At the same time, hear the story as if you don’t know its ending and wrestle with why Jesus, God’s Son, would allow himself to be taken. Why would he risk all he had accomplished to move closer to a terrible end? What could possibly be motivating his actions?

MARY’S STORY:  Mark 14:22-26

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art by Courtney Burk

I am both bewildered and mesmerized by Jesus in this moment. I see him so clearly as a man, a friend, a skilled wood worker, and as my son. But tonight, like many nights before, and like the night he was born, there is more. So much more. There is an unmistakeable “otherness” about him. It makes all who are around him yearn for God’s presence. It even makes us feel that God is certainly as close as the sound of Jesus’ voice.

And now, he is tearing bread apart and saying things like “this is my body” which sounds strange—and yet it makes so much sense even though I can’t explain it. He has held up a cup of wine and shared that “this is my blood” which is even stranger. Yet, I find a pulse of life in those words, and an enveloping peace that I will understand the God-infused mysteries of my eldest child very soon. It is both a knowledge I have carried, and a heartache I have felt but not fully known for his entire life. As I receive my passover bread and wine, I say a prayer, asking Yahweh to help me in this moment, to hold it and remember it.

PETER’S STORY:  Mark 14:27-31, 53-72

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art by Tami Roach

I have never wanted to turn back time as much as I desperately want to rewind the last hour of this day. I would trade a lifetime of happiness if I could take back the words I’ve said, fears that gripped me and pride that blinded me.

Jesus warned me. Gave me the specifics of this failure. But I thought it was impossible. He told me exactly what would happen and I didn’t believe him. He looked at me with the deepest compassion and said that before a rooster crowed not once, but twice, I would deny knowing him three times. When I protested his prediction, I had no idea that an evening spent celebrating the Passover with our friends would turn into a violent upheaval of all I’d devoted myself to for three years.

It all happened so fast and none of it makes sense. I mean, I know Jesus is not exactly buddies with the Jewish leaders, but the people love him and he has never invited the wrath of the Roman officials. Everyone’s talking treason and the last time I caught a glimpse of him, his face was bloody and swollen, and he had been beaten.

What is hardest for me to believe is that I could betray my faithful friend so abruptly. One minute I announce to everyone that he will always be my leader, and moments later, I am so afraid his fate will become mine, that I turn my back on him to protect myself. I don’t know how he will ever trust me again. I don’t know how I can live with the guilt of failing him when he needed me most. I don’t know how to bear the crow of a rooster ever again.

JESUS’ STORY:  Mark 15:15-37

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Today we mourn. 

For promises unfulfilled

for wholeness unrealized

for brokenness still afflicting.

Today there is only darkness.

Our hopes are buried

our longings shrouded

our desires entombed.

Today the grave engulfs us.

We walk in hell

empty, stripped of life

no light only darkness.

Today God seems to have failed.

Yet here we find freedom

Between death and resurrection

This is the night which empties us

and makes us whole.

~Thomas Merton

Let’s try for the next 48 hours, to be aware, even uncomfortable with the confusion, fear and anguish of these moments. This is our story, even though centuries removed from the historical events, we can find our place as the mother, friend and follower who is trying to make sense of what’s happening in front of us and how much it hurts to see everything unfold. Until Sunday.

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