The reading for Good Friday in the one-year lectionary is John 18-19. Once again, we focus on a portion of this reading.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:28-30 ESV).
In Germany, Good Friday is called Karfreitag. Kar is from an ancient high German word meaning sorrow or grief. It suggests an active grief. Our pastor mentioned weeping. Interestingly, one of the only words that still uses this stem now is used for areas of land that are completely empty, with no buildings, people, houses, nothing. All seems blank. All seems lost.
In so many ways, as Jesus bows His head and gives up His spirit, the term Karfreitag is so fitting. This day, this moment, Jesus’ death, is filled with sorrow and grief, a sorrow that is active in its depth and effect. What can Jesus’ mother do but weep in agonizing sorrow? What can the beloved disciple do but look on as His master dies, helpless to deliver him, and weep. What can Peter do but descend into a grief that brings almost despair as he remembers how he denied his Lord just before His death? What can His disciples do but look with grief and sorrow on their desertion of Him in His final hours and weep—weep for Him and for themselves and their failures. Now all seems lost. Empty. Like nothing. The death of Jesus brings all things to naught—all their thoughts and plans. All their supposed strengths. Their loyalty. Their lives. Without Jesus and brought to the depths of sorrow at His death, the disciples stand on empty ground.
We, too, know agonizing grief, active, weeping sorrow. We know it as children as we sob and cry over a broken bone or face a bully. We grieve and weep when we lose a job and a house and all security. Sorrow confronts us like an illness when we feel the deep agony of a miscarriage or other death of our child. It knocks the wind out of us, doubles us over in agonizing, visceral grief. It pushes us down to our knees when our spouse leaves us or our parents die. It pulls wracking sobs out of our bodies as all seems lost. Empty. Nothing. We look on ourselves, our sins and failures, our selfish rotten nature, our inadequacies, and we despair. We are nothing. Empty. Broken. Lost.
This deep and active sorrow hits us full force as we look on Jesus dead upon the cross, crying out to God and giving up His spirit. We sob and we grieve. Why? Why did He do this for me? I am nothing. I am empty. We look on Jesus, dead upon the cross, and we wonder in a world full of grief and sorrow: Did it work? Was it worth the agony? Is all not lost? Because right now, at this moment in Holy Week, in a world seemingly rife with imminent sorrows all around, all looks dim. All appears lost. Empty. Nothing. Only active, visceral grief. Tears and blood and sweat and pain.
But it is Jesus who has the final word: “It is finished.” And in those three words are life and light and joy in the midst of grief.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You who endured the greatest sorrow, grant us comfort in our grief, and teach us ever to hear You proclaim “It is finished,” so that we may hope in You and therein find assurance and joy; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.