Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Sacred Head Sore Wounded"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want." (NRSV)
As I write this, we are preparing for our worship services for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. One of our music directors has asked me to do a reading, essentially a spoken word version of a song from Jesus Christ Superstar, which I remember well from my youth but haven't listened to for many years. The song she has chosen, I only want to say (Gethsemane), is brutal and harsh, laying bare the torment and anguish that Jesus must have felt in the garden as He awaited His betrayal, trial, and ultimate execution.
After one practice session, I was feeling distraught, moved by the words that I was speaking, and our director asked if I was okay. I began to tell her how I was feeling as I recited the difficult words. Even as I did so, a voice inside me said, "It's not about you." When I had finished, our director, a gentle and wise person, quietly told me her reason for selecting this piece: "The joy of Easter — right down to the happiness of children looking for Easter eggs — only makes sense if we've gone through the desolation of Gethsemane and the pain of Good Friday."
As she continued to speak, I felt a weight lifting from me. More importantly, I gained new clarity around the significance — even the necessity — of worshipping together on Good Friday. I no longer wanted to avoid it. I was able to embrace it.
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 – When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (NRSV)
Without Christ's crucifixion on the cross of Calvary, there is no resurrection on Easter morning. Without death, there is no life. Without the anguish and despair and desolation of Thursday and Friday, there would be no victory on Sunday.
To walk with Jesus and the disciples on their journey through Gethsemane to Calvary, and the points in between, is an opportunity not only to journey with the Beloved, but to fully appreciate the miracle of Jesus' resurrection and rebirth, and the miracle of our own faith in Jesus the Christ.
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for inviting us to walk with You. Thank You for allowing us to be part of Your painful journey through betrayal and mortal death to resurrection and eternal life. Thank You for inviting us to be part of God's unending story for the world and for all humankind. Amen.