Today is Good Friday, also known as Dark Friday, a day when, around the world, Christians memorialize the crucifixion of Christ, an event we believe was God’s method for absolving the sins of those who believe, an act of great kindness and love and evidence of God’s desire to be reunited with mankind. Millions will attend services today, and millions more will, at some point, stop to reflect in their own way over this mysterious relationship they have with Jesus, a relationship the Apostle Paul states must be experienced to understand. Paul even states that those who have not experienced Christ would consider us fools. I think it’s safe to say that has become true.
When Christ died on the cross, the disciples didn’t know he was going to resurrect in three days. Peter tore his clothes and ran through the streets (an outward sign of grief and distress, often over a tragedy.) I wrote this letter as a reflection, trying to imagine what it must have been like to have been Peter, to have had to explain to his friends and other followers of Christ what had happened. I thought it might be appropriate for Good Friday.
Early this morning, our dear friend Jesus was killed on a cross. If these are the rumors you have heard, I regretfully tell you these rumors are true. I am, with you, heartbroken and confused about what has happened. I can only imagine the amount of pain you are feeling, those of you who knew him, those of you who kept us in your homes and fed us meals and gave us your beds. I know he is dead, and yet I simply can’t process the world without him. He had become and as yet remains the soul focus of my hope.
I know from having been with him for so long he would want me to communicate his love to you. I can’t think of anything other than a hundred Roman soldiers and a mad mob of protestors that could have drug him away from you, save the will of God Himself.
I am, with the others here in Jerusalem, distraught and heartbroken. It’s all I can do to write this letter. Too much has happened to explain, and as I’ve said, none of it makes sense to any of us. Jesus Himself seemed to be the only person who remained dejectedly calm. They are saying now that he was a fool and a liar and a conman, and they are saying his death proves as much. I don’t know what to tell you about this. I, too, entertained thoughts of taking the government. He was my king, and your king too. Jesus talked often of his kingdom, and at the very moment I thought it was coming into sight, what with all the praying and the speeches and the soldiers circling around, it has all gone, all disappeared.
I don’t believe Jesus was a conman. Perhaps he was a fool, perhaps he was mad, but he was mad with a love emboldened by an unseen authority that I simply cannot explain. You experienced it and you know what I’m talking about. We weren’t fools to believe him. He may have been wrong, but he was not lying. A conman gains something for his con, but Jesus lost everything daily, and has now lost his life, willingly lost his life. He wouldn’t even let us fight for him in the end.
Many of us are now wanted by the authorities, marked men. His death was the government’s way of warning all of us. I don’t know what to tell you. I wish I knew. We gave everything to follow him and now he is gone. And yet, amidst all of this, those three years I knew his love are worth trading all of life to have experienced. And the hope that he spoke of, the hope of his kingdom to come lives on in my soul as though it remains true. That hope will die, of course, but the love will not. Jesus gave himself to this world and took nothing in return and as such taught us to love each other, and nothing can take that from us. Won’t we tell stories about him when we are old? Didn’t he leave a foundation, rather than a chasm?
Against the slander that is circling, we need not defend him in the streets with protests. We needn’t lay down our lives. We must defend him with love, which may also cost our lives. But we must love and prove the things he said were true, even as he taught us, that truth produces love.
We watched as he loved those who hated him. We watched as he loved those who tortured him. We watched as he loved those who mocked him. We watched as he loved those who killed him. We watched as he love the religious who were threatened by him. We watched as he loved his enemies with the same zeal and determination with which he loved us. Is there any greater miracle than this, that a man stated a belief and lived it to his death, an absurd belief, and an absurd death? Is there anything more otherworldly, more supernatural, more hopeful than this?
We are not fools to have followed him, and we are not fools to miss him. I would rather die a fool than live without having known him. We must live on, then, in his bright shadow, having faith that what he said was true, even though our faith is being tested. I am not ashamed to have been a follower of Jesus. I pray all God’s comfort to you in this painful and confusing time. Will you pray for us here in Jerusalem, us who live in shadows and pools of tears, having ripped our clothes, with enemies around every corner, carrying a grief that is nearly too much.
May we see each other again soon, and remember Jesus.
* It is doubtful Peter would have written much of anything in the three days Christ was in the tomb. Scripture says Peter denied Christ, which insinuates people were questioning him. And when Christ finds Peter, he is fishing, which insinuates Peter went back to work, (though this may have been days after Christ had already appeared.) Regardless, Peter would not have known Christ was going to raise from the dead. And it is doubtful Peter would have really understood Christ’s Kingdom would not come in his earthly lifetime. It is also doubtful Peter knew Christ was going to be killed. Jesus did not need his disciples to understand the theological ramifications of events in order for the events to take place, and in order for those events to have power. Jesus didn’t bother to stop and explain everything. And so these events are more understood in our day then they were at the time. Peter, of course, would understand more later, and devote the rest of his life to building the church . Here is an interesting article detailing some values of the early church.
*On Sunday I announced the week’s blogs, but moved the scheduled blog for today (How I learned to Like Exercise) to April 14th.
* The image is not a depiction of St. Peter, but of St. Paul. The painting is called Saint Paul Writing by Pier Franceco Sacchi. The Greek text he is writing is from Corinthians 13: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” The sword against the table prophesies how the Apostle will be martyred.