Saturday, April 11, 2009


Today I think of Jesus' friends. We know that the disciples still didn't understand what was happening--they still didn't quite "get it" until after Jesus' resurrection. We have the benefit of knowing the end of the story, but what must they have been thinking and feeling on that dark Sabbath day, the day after their beloved teacher's death? Confused? Abandoned? Scared? Wondering what comes next? Where they will go? What they will do? These men and women had literally left their old lives behind, to travel with Jesus and to learn from him. They left their jobs, their homes, their families...all of that, just to have it all end with such sudden and crushing finality.
In the church we attended during my teenage years, it was a tradition to strip the altar at the end of the Good Friday worship service. The congregation would sing the verses of "Were You There?" slowly and ponderously, pausing between each one while someone would read one of Jesus' last words, and more items would be taken from the chancel area: the big Bible, the candles, the altar cloths. After the altar was bare, it would be draped with black cloth, and a crown of thorns would be placed on the draped cross. After each verse of the song, more lights would be turned off, so that it would be completely dark by the end. We would leave in silence, in the dark. It was an extremely moving experience, a loving act of remembrance.
Do you know that hymn?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
As I would leave the church's sanctuary, devoid of light, seemingly devoid of hope, Jesus' last words echoing in my mind, it was easy to imagine that I had been there, witnessing the horror, the blood, the pain, the cruelty. And, in a way, I was there. Every one of us was there, because our sins were the nails driven through Jesus, into that cross, and it was Jesus' love for us that kept him there.

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