Friday of Holy Week 2008

March 24, 2008

Hello, folks…

I’ve been preparing for the Good Friday Pilgrimage at the building all week and thought I’d share a little about it for those who can’t make it. Good Friday stuff is actually a bit difficult for me in one way… it’s supposed to be about the death ad burial, but not really move on to the resurrection. When I was growing we really spoke of the death without the resurrection. I don’t know if was because we were afraid of ending one day’s story on a less than happy note, or if we simply didn’t know how to sit and mourn for a time. Oh sure, “blessed are those who mourn,” but that doesn’t mean much when there’s a happier ending to skip along to.

The death was cruel and the scattering disciples were in the lowest place, far beyond anything they might have imagined. My family has heard me talk about it a thousand times, but I really feel for old Thomas, the one to whom we’ve giver the moniker of “Doubting” for so long. When Thomas stood face-to-face with that grave, he had no happier chapter to skip over to.

Thomas was central in an interesting story that you can find in John 11. When Jesus was ready to go to Lazarus, his friend in Bethany who was sick, his disciples were more than a little concerned. Some of the folks who lived over that way wanted to kill Jesus! How could he go there? It was a very natural reaction… self-preservation. After all, they’re the followers of Jesus. Their fortunes are fairly tightly bound together.

But here comes our “Doubter” with a manly sounding reply fit for any John Wayne movie I’ve ever seen… “If dying is good enough for my Lord, it’s good enough for me.” (That’s a paraphrase by the way.)

Yes, Thomas the “Follower,” the “Brave,” the “Committed” was ready to stand by Jesus even in death. He was banking it all on his Lord. I’ve never seen the story of “Following Thomas” or “Loyal Thomas” in any of the children’s curriculum books for Sunday School. But that who he was…

And then Jesus did die, and Thomas didn’t die with him. I can’t imagine the shame and hurt that that one would feel standing outside that tomb. To have believe so much about yourself, yet alone what you believed about the corpse that is laying inside. That’s bone crushing pain, folks. That’s an edge to which I don’t think I myself have even been pushed. It’s no wonder that he doubted his friends when they made such a crazy claim, telling him it wasn’t over… Jesus is alive again. I would think that he’d relive as much shame as he would experience a new joy at such an announcement.

Maybe we need a day every year when we sit outside a tomb, and not an empty one. The resurrection just might demand it of us. We just might hesitate to slap an epitaph like “Doubter” on anyone else.


Painting by Andrea Mantegna



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