It’s been a fairly relaxing day. Somehow that doesn’t seem appropriate, that I should be able to relax and enjoy the day on Good Friday. I noticed this morning, when I took the dog out for a walk, that it was a nice sunny day. Breezy, rather cool, but nice enough as long as I was wearing a jacket. I remember how many days it rained on Good Friday, when we lived in a town where we could participate in a “Cross Walk” – we would walk from one church to another, with people taking turns carrying a wooden cross at the head of the procession, finishing up at the church where the Good Friday service would be held.
We didn’t get to a Good Friday service today (our church doesn’t hold one, and by the time I had found the service time of the ecumenical service it was over), so I read through the Scriptural accounts of the trial before Pilate and the crucifixion by myself. There is little detail given of the suffering Jesus endured – the people from whom these accounts were first written would have known from those terse words “he was scourged” and “he was crucified” just what awful torture had been inflicted.
I’ve seen The Passion of the Christ and heard sermons on the details of the physical suffering Jesus went through. I find myself at the same time trying to imagine as clearly as I can the details of his suffering, and wanting to turn away and not think about the awfulness of it. Sitting in my comfortable chair, in a community far from most of the suffering on this earth, Jesus’ suffering seems too distant for me to appreciate it properly. Sometimes I think I would appreciate my salvation more if I had a clearer sense of how much he suffered for me – but somehow thinking about it more has never seemed to have that kind of effect on me. If feeling sufficiently moved by the account of Jesus’ suffering were required to be sure of my salvation, I would be in trouble.
So I am grateful for the story of the repentant thief. He certainly had a much better idea what Jesus was suffering, as he was hanging on a cross himself, but his own suffering had nothing to do with his salvation. It was his plea for mercy that made the difference, and his recognition that Jesus was the right person to address that plea to. Jesus owed him nothing, and he had little reason for confidence that Jesus would grant what he asked. But something in what he saw and heard gave him confidence that Jesus could grant what he asked.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Luke 23:42
Years ago I learned a songthat consists only of those words, set to a tune that seems both haunting and hopeful. (Looking for it today on the internet, I discovered that it was written by Jacques Berthier of the Taizé Community.) When I feel discouraged with life – especially with my own failures in my Christian walk, or when I am just feeling sad, I sing this, and I find hope.