Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday in Isolation

One of the things that has struck me this year, considering the oddity which is much of the world self-isolating to "flatten the curve" of the COVID-19 pandemic, is that we have a rare opportunity to relate to the disciples of Jesus that first year: the Shepherd was struck and the sheep were scattered.* Only John was present at the crucifixion - the disciples and followers were afraid, very understandably, and wouldn't have gone to the Temple or any synagogue that Sabbath day, for fear of the powers-that-be, the same powers that coerced Pilate to crucify Jesus after he found him innocent of the charges brought against him.

His followers were afraid and isolated and the world seemed very dark and hopeless.

We have an advantage over them - we know what they wouldn't know until after sunrise on the first day of the week: the tomb in which He had been laid was empty.

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7)

 And we have enjoyed centuries of gathering together as communities of believers, remembering the Passion of our Lord and Savior, observing Maundy Thursday, walking through the Stations of the Cross and grieving the extraordinary act of love that He committed upon the Cross "...for God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16).

In the midst of our tears, we have been together in the remembrance of His great sacrifice.

But this year, we have the unique opportunity to experience something more like the very first year, in a different emotional state, a profound lack of physically-present community. And maybe we ought to lean-into that a little bit and feel the isolation which has been imposed upon us, let it be part of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

Our Jewish friends are celebrating Passover this week and it's a very odd Pesach for them, too - instead of larger family gatherings going through a seder together they are hunkered down in households, sometimes alone. There's a way in which that first Passover started a season in which the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were isolated from the rest of the world ...for forty years, as it turned out, since they refused the invitation to enter the land after two years (Numbers 13 & 14).

Steve Bell is a Christian singer-songwriter and a number of years ago I had the opportunity to see him live and hear, for the first time, the following pair of songs - and I was destroyed, I just wept and wept. The first, Big Mistake, is Israel as the betrothed of God, and the second is the response of the Lord in Lenten Lands - I commend them both to you for your edification. God bless you and yours.

You can buy the album from which these two songs come here.

*Jesus says this in Matthew 26:31, referencing a prophetic word in Zechariah 13:7

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