The Revd Jacky Embrey, moderator of the Mersey Synod of the United Reformed Church, tries to comprehend the anguish of Christ’s followers on Good Friday
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (American Spiritual)
However much we reflect on the suffering and crucifixion of Christ, we can’t put ourselves in his shoes, or in those of any of his followers – for we know what happened on Easter Day, and that changes everything.
We’re not even sure which of his followers were there when they crucified our Lord, but all the gospels mention some of the women who had followed him from Galilee. That day they watched, waited and suffered alongside him in a way that we can never understand. They had dared to hope that Jesus might indeed be the Christ, that God might once again be intervening on behalf of God’s people. But, on that day, all their hopes and dreams were dashed.
And yet they stayed. They stayed because they could not stay away. It seemed their connection with Jesus, whom none had known for more than three years, could not be broken, whether by hatred, fear or even death. So they looked on through it all – those who during his lifetime had been welcomed, healed and taught, when others might have consigned them to the kitchen, the scrap heap or the drawing room.
By the time Jesus was dead and buried, those who had waited to the bitter end must have been wiped out by anguish, confusion and shock. We know from experience that any death brings strong emotions. This was not only the death of a much-loved individual, but also the death of hope and possibility, even of faith and truth.
How could it be the end?
Jesus had said the Messiah must first suffer …
What did they dare to think, to whisper to one another or to pray, as they waited through the long night, unable to sleep, huddled together behind closed doors and frightened for their lives? Or were they too bruised to think at all? Were they too numb even to feel, as they clung to one another for support?
How bleak must the dawn of Holy Saturday have appeared. All that had gone before seemed so promising, so right, so good. If only the ending could be different …