Good Friday in the Gospel of John (19:16-30)

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

A Prayer of Confession

In a day when too many avoid personal responsibility for their actions and blame external factors, other people, and institutional systems for their wrongs, prayers like the one below remind us that each of us is a sinner. If I do something wrong—something sinful—I am to blame. I am culpable.

Too often we behave like Adam and Eve in the garden, passing the blame for our misdeeds onto someone or something else.

Tomorrow is Good Friday, reminding us that Jesus was crucified for our iniquities. He bore the consequences for all of us.

So may we each, seeing him suffering and dying on the cross, have our eyes opened to our need for forgiveness—not only because we have wronged one another but God himself. And may our hearts be kindled by the realization that he took the penalty owed to us, freeing us from condemnation and for life everlasting.

Here’s a prayer that reflects this reality:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and apart from your grace, there is no health in us. O Lord, have mercy upon us. Spare all those who confess their faults. Restore all those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may now live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.”

Living Our Holy Week

Today is Palm Sunday and is the beginning of Holy Week, that week in the church year where we acknowledge and celebrate Jesus’ journey to the cross and eventual resurrection. It is also the end of the Lenten season, a period of sacrifice, repentance, renunciation, and fasting.

When I think of Jesus during this time, I think about how he prayed in Gethsemane in great sorrow because of his impending suffering; how he was betrayed by a friend for 30 silver coins; how he underwent an unjust trial filled with false testimony yet didn’t defend himself; how he was mocked and beaten; and how he carried the same cross to Golgotha on which he would be publicly crucified.

This same Jesus forgave the thief crucified next to him; and forgave even those who took it upon themselves to put him to death and those who stood and jeered at the foot of the cross. And entrusted his mother to the apostle John. The night before this same Jesus washed the feet of his disciples who would desert him at his arrest.

I also think, of course, of the great Sunday morning reversal, when upon visiting Jesus’ tomb, the women found it empty. I think of the dismay and joy of the disciples when they experienced their risen Lord.

What do we make of all this? What do we do with it? How do we live because of it?

Our lives in this world as followers of Jesus are our version of Holy Week. We live on this side of resurrection and eternity. We experience sorrow, distress, betrayal, pain, unjust treatment, and eventually death.

Do I grieve with hopelessness? Do I try to get even with those who hurt me? Do I try to numb myself to the hurts of life? Do I live as though only this life matters?

Much of the world does.

Jesus certainly didn’t.

Luke 9:23-24 says:
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.”

We live through our Holy Week following in Jesus’ footsteps because that is the path to our resurrection. We die now to live forever later. We lose ourselves so that we might truly gain our lives. What feels now like dying and losing will eventually be reversed. Mourning will turn to dancing. Grief to joy. Death to life.

That’s the promise. That’s the hope. And that’s what Holy Week and indeed the whole Christian life is about.