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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Holy Week Prayers: The Friday that was good

Passage for Reflection: Luke 22:14-23:56 Father in heaven,

Today it is Good Friday, and it is good because Jesus suffered willingly in our place, absorbing into His body the wounds we each deserve. In every way, He teaches us to suffer well. First, He gathered His friends around a table, breaking bread and pouring wine, and for these symbols of His suffering, He gave You thanks. Teach us, like Jesus, to give thanks in all things and to learn the art of celebrating Your perfect purposes even when they are shrouded in mystery. Then Jesus went from the table to the garden, which was His regular place of prayer. There, He fell to His knees and looked to You for the strength to drink the cup of Your will. Teach us, like Jesus, that we can and should depend on You. Make us a people whose first impulse it is to pray and plead, and strengthen us to do that which You have commanded.

Your Son, Jesus, teaches us that suffering can be met without resistance. He laid down violence. He laid down self-defense. He laid down every weapon, and when the shepherd was struck, the sheep were scattered. When He chose not to resist, He was beaten. He was mocked. They blindfolded the God-Man, they stripped the Savior, and they crowned the King. In the face of unjust accusation, He remained silent.

Many were represented in the crowd that day: the disciples who fled, denying they ever knew Jesus; the women who followed the cross, making their loud lament; the soldiers who mocked, gambling for his clothes; the criminals who flanked his side, one mocking and one confessing faith; the centurion who heard Jesus draw His last breath, praising God; the crowd who turned from the bloody spectacle of a crucified man, returning home and beating their breasts. Some stayed close; many kept their distance.  And over every man and women gathered there, over every man and woman standing watch from eternity past and eternity future, Your Son, Jesus, pronounced these words of mercy: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

None of us knows the measure of our sin, nor can we understand the severity of the judgment we deserve. Your wrath is not something we like to admit into our consciousness. How much easier it is to make our excuses and concessions, to justify the wrong we've done and the good we've left undone. None of us has the righteous scales by which our hearts would be rightfully weighed, but most of us have the suspicion that our actions and intentions would in every way be found wanting. We do not meet Your holy standard, and Good Friday teaches us that all sin, conscious or unintended, deserves death.

Good Friday is good because Jesus, the sinless God-Man, took a number and stood in line. He was numbered with the transgressors. When my number was called and it was my turn to stand before You, the Holy Judge, He went forward. He surrendered His body to the death that should have been mine. And He did it for love.

Today, let this story ring with new surprise. Forgive those of us who are indifferent, who mock, who do not admit that such a sacrifice was ever necessary. Forgive those of us who receive your gift of free grace with half-hearted thanks. Forgive our scaredy-cat faith and fair-weather devotion. Forgive us, for we do not know what we do.