In the Lectionary

April 15, Good Friday (John 18:1-19:42)

Diving into the disciples’ grief invites us to be honest about our own.

“I can’t believe this is happening.” This phrase, or one like it, often accompanies people when the reality of someone else’s imminent or recent death is at hand. It seems to be a feeling that isn’t dependent on the health or age of the person who is dying. We can know something is likely, even inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we’re ready. How could we be? The death of another brings with it the complex work of defining our relationship to that person. We experience a potent mix of love, regret, sadness, hope, and even relief. And the grieving process is neither quick nor predictable, personally or communally.

Good Friday is one of the few days in the lectionary where the Gospel text is the same every year: John 18 and 19. It’s a long and detailed lection, one that has inspired all manner of artistic interpretations. Music has been composed to communicate it, dramas written to carry its deepest truths, and liturgies created to bring worshipers into the narrative that defines us as Christians. It is a text that in many ways reads us as much as we read it.

And yet, a wise mentor once reminded me: we’re not re-crucifying Jesus on Good Friday. We know that Christ is risen, that the cycles of death and resurrection in our lives are not confined to three days each year. The Christian experience of death and resurrection is continuous. Every death that we experience returns us to the foot of the cross where Jesus experienced a profound sense of being forsaken. And from near or far, disciples are whispering or wailing: How can this be happening?