Tumbling in the Sand
A reflection for Good Friday. The Gospel: John 18:1 – 19:42
(sung) Stay with me
Remain here with me
Watch and pray
Watch and pray …
These words, which come from a Taize chant, come from a different Gospel account of Jesus’ passion. They are from Jesus’ lips asking his disciples to stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest.
But, I believe they are meant not just as a request from Jesus to his disciples for that moment, but also as a request to us,
That we not cut and run as the trial gets ugly and Peter weeps at his own betrayal
That we might watch as Jesus carries his cross to Golgotha and the women stand vigil as he slowly dies
That we remain at the cross and not turn away as Jesus breathes his last or the soldiers pierce his body
That we stay with Jesus and Joseph of Aramathea takes his body and, with Nicodemus, prepares it for burial and lays it in the tomb
And that at the silence of the grave, we linger and we pray.
I don’t believe that Jesus asks us to draw near to his passion out of some great need for us to experience guilt, however. As though Jesus wanted us to be all about flagellating ourselves for our complicity in the death of God. As though we are to only think about how this is our fault or our sin that caused this—though, indeed, the broken of the world and our brokenness is borne on that cross and we need to wrestle with that.
God is broken for love of us.
But, I don’t think that is why Jesus asks us to stay close. Instead, I think we are called by God to draw near for, at the very least, two other simple reasons—
The first is love.
Jesus asks us to draw near to his passion for love of us.
Who doesn’t want those they love near to them when they die?
When all else is stripped away and death is at hand, it is all we want—
the love that sustains us
the love that is the reason we are
the love that gives our lives meaning.
And, indeed, it is God’s love for you and for the world that give Jesus’ life and passion meaning.
This is the glory of the cross—that Christ, indeed, has loved us to the very end.
The second reason is so that we can see.
That we can see God
in the midst of our own sleepless nights in prayer
the middle of our own trials
the middle of our own agonies
and our own watching by dying loved ones
in the middle of silent graveyards where we yearn to hear the whispers of those we have lost.
We are invited to watch and pray now
so that we might be able to see God there—
that even when things don’t seem to be working out at all
when things have gone from bad to worse
when death seems to not only have the final word, but even seems to be laughing about it,
that God is there.
And has made our lives holy, dreamed and new — even our failures, sorrows and deaths are wrapped in God.
So that we might know,
even as we wait and watch and pray
for that certain dawn on the other side of the empty tomb,
that we might know and we know that God stays and watches with us to the very end.
Featured image: “The Crucifixion” a Byzantine icon, drawn by Olga Christine. You may see more icons and purchase her work at her website: olgachristine.com