We are surrounded by the reality of death. We all know that we will die; yet every death brings with it a shock – a moment of incredulity and a sense that there is something terribly unnatural with this abrupt separation. And this, holy week, is a time for remembering death.
The friends of Jesus had put their faith in him. They believed that there was something special about this teacher. In a land ruled by foreigners, for a people that had experienced a dramatic delivery from enslavement more than once before, there was a hope, even an expectation that this messiah would bring about social change and freedom. And in the ways that matter most he did, but it certainly didn’t look like much of a victory on Good Friday.
The death of Jesus was abrupt. Violent, brutal, and accompanied by cruel laughter and merciless joking, it struck fear so deep into the hearts of his friends that they ran, terrified both of sharing Jesus’ fate and watching their much beloved teacher suffer.
When Jesus died, not only did his disciples lose their friend, but they also lost their hope. This was the end for them. No more slipping through a crowd. No more mysterious escapes. This time the ones who had been hunting Jesus had won. He was dead, and it was probably only a matter of time before those same people came looking for them. It is hard to imagine what the conversations must have been about. Was there just stony silence? Was there humiliation of thinking that maybe they had been duped by a false prophet? Was the shame of desertion ringing in their ears? Or was it all swallowed up in the immeasurable grief of losing the love and steady warmth of a friend like no other?
It is easy to read the stories of the crucifixion and forget that for the people living in those moments the end was not yet written. Even when we watch the most moving portrayals of the death of Christ, we know the ending; we know he’s coming back. But for his disciples in that moment, they hadn’t yet understood it. They were left empty and hopeless.
This is a week to remember – a week of terror, anguish and darkness.
It is a week to remember those in our lives and around the world who are living in difficult circumstances.
It is a week to remember those who suffer from health problems, and who face immeasurable hardships.
It is a week to remember those who are hopeless.
It is a week to remember our own weaknesses.
It is a week to remember that these are the ones for whom Jesus died.
Because despite the abandonment of his friends, despite the pain and despite being separated from his Father, Jesus still chose to die for us.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.