With a final breath, his head slouched down into his chest. The curtain in the temple ripped in two. And a mother wept over her lost son. Disciples stood close to one another, shattered between mourning for the lost life and the lost teacher who they thought (or at least hoped) would be the one to lead their kingdom into a new age. But as flesh and bones were lowered to the ground, no hope was left for that vision.
The four gospels in the Bible each offer a significant portion of time to the story of the crucifixion, and with closed eyes, our empathy can imagine much more for how followers and enemies of Christ felt the day of his death. And then to awaken the next morning, with sleep-crusted eyes unsure of reality, to remember the truth: It was not a dream; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, was dead. Dead and buried in a tomb.
As I wrote about recently, modern readers and listeners know how the story continues the next day and how everything is about to change. Again. I just wanted to offer a bit more space for us to recognize that those living in that story shared on flannel boards around the world did not know about Easter Sunday. They only knew “Good” Friday.
Now I need to tell you part of my story…
Last weekend I went to the March for Our Lives. It wasn’t really my plan for the day. I had run from home to downtown Portland, to get in some training miles and take my phone in for a battery replacement. With streams of people heading in the same direction I was, I decided to join along and see what was happening. The crowds around me were amazing. From passionate youth to “Raging Grannies,” I loved seeing such a beautiful eclectic group come together in support for children being safe in their schools, and movie theaters, and concerts, and churches, and malls, and sidewalks, and everywhere else.
Of course there were people there who disagreed with those gathering on this chilly morning. One man, with two sign-carrying supporters, used his megaphone to yell at the crowd that the views of this group were the same ones that led to Hitler and past genocides. He declared that his gun ownership was essential for freedom, safety, and the right way to protect students. No one stopped this man from his free speech opportunity. However, I must admit to chuckling as a Grannie held her sign between him and the group, and when a marching band came closer so that their music would overpower his anger.
After the march, I returned home and have, of course, been on social media since then. Many in my little social world supported the concept of the protest or were even there among the marchers. Others questioned the value of the demonstration in comparison to other significant social justice issues, or challenged how this movement threatened core constitutional rights. Those questions have stayed with me and led to online searches about Time Magazine covers, constitutional amendments, Planned Parenthood proposals, police camera videos, and statements from the Pope.
So what, you may be wondering, does a march have to do with Easter? Unless of course its the Easter Parade.
If I had been among Jesus’s disciples or the women who followed him, I imagine that at some point, I would have wanted to go back to the tomb that he was resurrected from. I would have wanted to push against the boulder to see how heavy it really was. To see if there were any etched drawings, burn marks, or scrolled words inside the cave that others had not seen. I would have sat in that space, maybe for just a few minutes, to feel how small it was for the body. I would have wanted that to be able to feel, see, breathe, and remember the space that Jesus was in when he returned to life. And I would want to follow his footsteps out of that small place into the world.
None of us are stuck in a cave, with a boulder covering the entrance and guards outside watching for allies. We have room to move and grow and experience so much. We do not have to be limited to only one thought, one action, or one value. We can believe that
- students deserve to be safe
- and that wise adults can own guns
- and that families in Flint need clean drinking water
- and that communities in Puerto Rico should be financially supported to rebuild
- and that the United States judicial system is biased
- and that there are good and brave police officers serving our streets
- and that being “made in the image of God” has nothing to do with a white man in a long white robe, with blue eyes and a golden halo around his head. Its about a Jewish refugee from some barely a dot on the map town in the Middle East who immigrated to another country as a child, spent most of his life as a manual laborer, and turned sacred laws, prophecies, and tables upside down.
Good Friday is brokenness. Easter Sunday is freedom. Right now humanity lives between the two. The challenge is in learning how to lean into the freedom, how to be for something (maybe for many things).