Looking Up – Good Friday Reflections

Wilson Whitten   -  


Tonight we gather to remember and reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion and death. As we move through this narrative, past mere remembrance and into their meaning for us today, I find myself reflecting on the paradoxes and contradictions that mark the very real, very violent death of the immortal and all powerful God of the universe. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, becomes the sacrificial lamb. The Word of God is silent in the face of false accusations. Even calling today “Good Friday” can seem to many like a misnomer.

The particular image I’m drawn to in considering our service tonight is Jesus, the Light of the World, shrouded in darkness as he is lifted up for all to see. The structure of part of our service is called “Tenebrae,” which means “darkness” or “shadow.” As we read through the seven last words of Christ uttered from the cross, we extinguish candles to commemorate this darkness that covered the earth just before Jesus’ death. Just a few months ago, in Advent, we began our services by lighting candles. Each week we added to that light, crescendoing on Christmas Eve, when each of us held a piece of the light from the Christ candle, celebrating the dawning light of our salvation in the birth of Jesus, the Word of God incarnate. Tonight we bring out the candles again to snuff them out as we hear the seven last words of Jesus before he dies.

But, as we embody this narrative tonight, we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus doesn’t stay dead. We look at the cross with resurrection eyes and hear his final words with resurrection ears. In Revelation 1, Jesus says “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” So, as each candle is extinguished and the darkness grows more profound, we are called not just to mourning but to new hope and celebration of the work that is being done on our behalf. The way to resurrection is through death, and He passes through it for us, bearing our sin and its consequence so that we may live through him. Each final word Jesus speaks shows us what it means to walk in newness of life and what life in his kingdom looks like.

Tonight, as the darkness grows deeper and we mourn the death of our Savior, we do not grieve as those without hope. We will gather again on Sunday morning to celebrate our risen Lord. We know that the dark won’t stop the light from getting through. We do. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.