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.
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before. —Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
One of the graces of this season spent in quarantine has been the lectionary’s course of readings through St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. The narrative is at once dense and frenetic, while also a source of great comfort. We read of disciples not so different from you and me. People who faced gargantuan challenges and struggled with the solid weight of human poverty, weakness, and finitude—of going to bed each night completely and helplessly ignorant of any of the possibilities that God might give with the sun’s rise. I can only fantasize about the tenor of the prayers that Jesus’ little community must have prayed in the days between Ascension and Pentecost.
We know the rest of the story, and perhaps that can tempt us to presumption. It is easy for us to overlook the yawning jaws of despair that likely followed at the heels of Jesus’ followers after his ascension, hungry for their fear. Tempting them to rely on themselves. Begging them to deny God’s faithfulness. Yes, we know the rest of the story, but even the gift of hindsight is just that, a gift. Yes, we know that in a week’s time God’s faithfulness—however providentially awkward—will be attested by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. A faithfulness, which will change the course of history. Yet I cannot help but wonder what the followers of Jesus must have made of God’s faithfulness during that strange, silent hinge between Ascension and Pentecost.