This has always been the most heartbreaking line of the entire Passion narrative for me. I don’t know whether it’s too much to think what Jesus had to suffer and that he had to suffer it alone. Or perhaps it’s imagining the devastation of being abandoned by your closest friends in your darkest hour. But, if I’m honest, I suspect it’s really because in the disciples, I see myself.
In his poem “The Hour of the Angel,” Rudyard Kipling writes of those moments in our lives that come upon us suddenly like a judgment day–a moment of truth. In those moments we do not develop character; rather, character is revealed:
“…But here we have
Prepared long since our garland or our grave…
Meeting, astounded, victory at the last,
Or, first and last, our own unworthiness.”
For Jesus’s disciples, Good Friday sprung upon them like Ithuriel’s Hour. The time of witnessing miracle after miracle was past. The days of walking with Jesus were abruptly brought to an end. The three years of preparation and training were behind them. When Good Friday came, all was laid bare. In the moment of truth, what was revealed?
A lack of devotion, a cowardice, their own faithless…unworthiness.
This Good Friday, we too find ourselves at Ithuriel’s Hour, a moment of truth of sorts. Who could have imagined on New Year’s Eve that a few months later we wouldn’t even be allowed to gather for Easter services? Who would have guessed that we would be kept apart from our beloved church members, our jobs, our schools, our communities, and friends for weeks–months?
I wonder, this Good Friday, what has been revealed in you? A garland or a grave? Victory at last? Or, first and last, your own unworthiness?
Have you found your time away from Sunday gatherings to be easier by the week? Have you found yourself sliding back into old patterns of sin? Have you breathed a sigh of relief that at least you won’t feel pressure to give to church for a while? Have you made excuses for why you haven’t communicated with any fellow church members? When was the last time you picked up a Bible?
I wonder whether the words of Mark confront you this Good Friday?
“And they all left him and fled.”
How easy it is to follow Jesus…until it isn’t.
Jesus’s utter faithfulness was only further highlighted by the utter faithlessness of his disciples. He was bleeding out every last drop of blood for their sins while they were cowering in the shadows. He was giving everything for them while they were proclaiming, “I don’t know this man!” (Mark 14:71). He was the Good Shepherd while they were proving once more to be wayward sheep.
This Good Friday, our hearts are laid bare.Tweet
This Good Friday, our hearts are laid bare. If you do not feel hungry for the Word of God, why? If you do not feel a strong urge to pray for your brothers and sisters, why? If you do not long to sing and pray and listen and give and feast with God’s people, why?
The good in Good Friday is that Jesus Christ did not need faithful disciples to save the world. Not only does he alone save, but he saves alone. No amount of faith from the disciples–or from us–was necessary to accomplish absolute and total salvation. Our justification does not arise from the ability to say, “When things got tough, I stuck with Jesus! I didn’t abandon him! I didn’t flee!”
Our good God gives us Good Friday to chide us to tell the truth: “You were straying like sheep…” Perhaps that you today. I know it is me.
Our good God gives us Good Friday to comfort us with the truth: “..but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25) Our Good Shepherd was faithful even to faithless, wayward disciples. The Overseer of our souls will not let one soul be lost.
Do not flee this Good Friday. Return. Return to the Shepherd.