The passion and struggle of Good Friday – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Good Friday is a long night. Good Friday is a long night dominated by grief and passion. Good Friday is a solemn start to a glorious weekend.

We all know the joy we are going to feel Easter morning. In about 36 hours, we are going to be right here again. We’ll be ringing bells and proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. We know what’s going to happen.

But tonight, we take the time and space to remember what it was like for those followers of Jesus who didn’t know what was going to happen. We remember what it was like for them on that fateful Friday in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. They didn’t know Easter was coming. They didn’t know they would find the stone rolled away from the tomb, they didn’t know they would find folded linen, they didn’t know Jesus was going to come back.

All they knew was that after years of witnessing countless miracles, teachings, healings, feedings… Jesus was dead. Dead. Not just wounded or away on a mountainside, just dead like a plain old human being, and seemingly gone forever.

Try to imagine how devastating that must have been for them. The only begotten Son of God undone by a cross and nails? How could this be? He’s the son of God, he’s supposed to win.

Try too to imagine the grief Jesus’ followers must have felt. All the hopes and dreams that had for and with their life in Jesus, now impossible, killed by the crucifixion. There was nowhere to turn to, no backup plan, no failsafe, this was life now, a life without Jesus.

On Good Friday we gather not to make ourselves feel bad for no reason, we gather together to share in that grief and to share in that passion. We come with our own anxieties, our own frustrations, our own shortcomings, and our own confusion. Tonight we bring these to God and say well what now? What should I do? Help me. 

Good Friday may seem morbid, but Good Friday is healthy. Good Friday is a time to get real, a time to get honest about who we are and how we’re doing, a time to get closer to God. Good Friday is not easy, but it’s worth it. We have to take the time to deal with the shadows of our life and faith. How else will we see the light if we haven’t spent some time in the darkness?

I can’t help but remember my first Holy Week here as a monk at SSJE, one of my elder Brothers kindly warned me that seeing the chapel stripped bare on Good Friday might be unsettling. In all honesty, I didn’t think much of his warning. I thought to myself I’m a tough guy, I can handle it, I’ll be fine.

Then at 2:00 AM on Good Friday, I came down from my cell to do my hour at the all-night watch. I came out this door here and turned to bow like I had done so many times before, and suddenly I stopped. There was nothing there. No crucifix, no candles, no linens, no nothing. It was like coming home to found out your house had been broken into. I had this horrifying thought of well what am I bowing to? What am I doing here?

I turned around and saw the church was dark, no light was coming through the saints in the stain glass windows. I looked up and saw the sanctuary lamp empty, I turned and saw the tabernacle undone.

I remember my legs actually shook a little bit, I was wobbly as I walked to the altar of repose. I sat down on a chair in front of the Sacrament and just kept telling myself ok just breath, pray, and focus on God in front of you.

We all have moments like these in our lives. Moments when it feels like the foundation we had so set so firmly beneath us crumbles. Moments when who we thought we were doesn’t quite match up to reality. Moments when what we thought we knew for sure was suddenly in doubt.  Moments when we realize we need God more than we can ever express.

Good Friday is a time to pray and express desperate passion for God. A time to acknowledge that we don’t always have it all together, no matter how composed we may appear to be on the outside. A time to acknowledge that there are certain wounds we haven’t quite fully healed from.

Good Friday is a time to remember that we are all carrying our own cross. We are all fighting little wars in our own head. We all have anxiety for the future, guilt over the past, and shame that we are not the person we wish we were. Our journey to Easter is a long confrontation of these hard truths. A long journey with our own cross.

Inevitably on that journey, we will ask ourselves why are we carrying this cross? Why is it so heavy? I thought this would be easier.

Everyone here tonight is struggling with something. Perhaps it is driving you crazy. Jesus struggled too. Jesus struggled just as we do. We are not alone in burdens.

The cross is a reminder that in our walk with Jesus, things get real. The cross is the place where our hopes and dreams meet reality and always survive. The cross is the place where we consider that maybe God’s plans for us is better than our own. The cross is where we let go of bitterness and grab hold of gratitude.

So tonight we venerate the cross in the midst of our own struggles. We venerate the cross not always knowing what we are doing, who we are, or where we are going. We venerate the cross wither we are ready for it or not.

Good Friday is an affirmation of life. Good Friday is an affirmation that we do here on earth matters. Good Friday is also a reminder that one day will be our last day. Our time here is temporary. Let’s make the most of it. Amen.

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8 Comments

  1. Phoebe Griswold on April 4, 2024 at 08:30

    I am grateful for Br Jack’s word “Jesus was dead.” Once Mary said to me, “I want you to hold with me my dead son.” As I live her plea, especially on Good Friday, I have a flicker of insight. I am blessed with the capacity “to hold”. Where does holding take us? How does it shape our capacity to work with God? How does it draw us into who we can become in Christ?

  2. John G. on April 4, 2024 at 07:24

    Brother Jack, I hear my own experience in your words, “Good Friday is a time to get real, a time to get honest about who we are and how we are doing, a time to get closer to God.” What burdens do I carry?
    “What little battles are going on in my head?” This is the cross I bear. I thought life would be easier, but life is not easy. I cannot see clearly the road ahead. “But we are not alone; Jesus struggled too.” “The cross is the place where we consider that maybe God’s plans for us are better than our own.” I’ve struggled with my plan versus God’s plan for me. I still struggle with guilt over the past and shame in the present and whether I am following God’s plan or my own or a combination of the two. In Mark, Jesus tells the rich young man, “Go, sell all you have and give it to the poor, and come, follow me.” I have much compared to the world, but little more than I need according to me. In prayer and acts of love I must learn to “to see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, follow him more nearly, day by day.” Amen

  3. Rev. David Ellis on April 4, 2024 at 06:43

    Thank you! I appreciate so much the recordings. The message never grows old. My eyesight is not so good but my ears are great. Thank you for sharing the recording.

  4. Carney Ivy on April 4, 2024 at 06:36

    Thank you Br. Jack. Truly Easter is most joyful after the darkness of Good Friday. As an adult, I have found that true joy comes from living through the sorrows. It is good to remember that when times are hard.

  5. Linda Spencer on June 10, 2023 at 21:31

    I head your Good Friday sermon when virtually attending Good Friday service. I have remembered parts
    of it since then. This evening I looked for it on the internet, and very grateful to find it. Thank you
    Br. Jack. I am so grateful to have found it so I an hear it again. Also I made a copy of it so I can
    read it. I am a senior woman and have had through life experiences of just asking God: what now?
    Thank you for a very thoughtful, profound and honest sermon.
    Linda

  6. Harold L. Trott on April 23, 2023 at 20:03

    A beautifully done and thoughtful sermon, Brother Jack. Thank you, and may Our Lord bless your perseverance and future in the SSJE.

    Fr Benson, pray for us!

    Fr Harold L. Trott, SSC
    Church of Our Lord (Anglican)
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

  7. Craig K on April 13, 2023 at 17:19

    The longest day. Thanks for the reminder that are time on earth is temporary and that life in Christ is everlasting. So grateful for this awareness.
    Respectfully, Craig K.

  8. Missy on April 13, 2023 at 15:56

    BrJack ,this is real . I thought when I heard your paced,thoughtful words and reading it again it is so very honest
    Thank you Missy

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