Alone. Troubled. Falling on his face. Sorrowful even to death.
Good Friday can be hard. Sometimes, skipping to Sunday is easier. Last year, after our Good Friday service, my friend’s five-year-old daughter asked, “Why is everyone so sad?” This morning, after listening to Lenten hymns, I reached my limit too. I told my daughter, “Okay, that’s enough for now.” The woe can be too much to bear. We would rather forget our sorrows and rest our heavy eyes until Sunday.
Do you have trouble staying awake? I do. Last week, after hearing about Covenant in Nashville, I was burdened. I prayed and prayed and prayed. This week, as more and more people related to the school came forward, some of whom I know from afar, it startled me. I had already forgotten their sorrow. It already seemed far off.
This week, Eric shared with me about a school in our community that lost a child to an accident. It made me remember losing a child in my own school community. And I prayed more, but I will forget again soon.
Mostly though, when I see Jesus falling to the ground in his pain, I see my own grief. And when I think of Peter fighting against sleep, I remember my falling asleep. That one night I needed to stay awake, etched so vividly in my mind. That one night I was so desperate to remember every final moment. That one night, begging my eyes to stay open, for my mind to take it all in, one last time. I knew with my husband’s laborious breathing, it would be the last night we shared together as such. And it was. But my eyes were so heavy.
Whether your grief is a tragic loss of someone you love, or the loss of a job, or a move from home, or a graduation from school, or a child going off to college, or the loss of a friendship, or the loss of financial security. Or maybe your grief today is sharing someone else’s pain. Whatever it is, Matthew 26 covers it.
We can relate to Peter, but to Jesus too. Our own aloneness, our own trouble, our own sorrow can leave us asking hard questions. But as someone who has lived through tragic loss, I also know the profound joy of Jesus in the hard places. There is perplexing and profound joy to be found in the hard places.
As the 2022-23 school year draws to a close, may God use Good Friday to help us enter into our own Garden of Gethsemane, and finish strong. Instead of gliding past the pain and grief, may we, in anticipation of the Resurrection, fully engage the reality of Good Friday – embrace Jesus as fully God and fully human – as the one who knows our aloneness and trouble and sorrow, and the Resurrection! That through the sorrow – not around it , the joy of this Sunday will spill over into May for all of us.
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand…” – Matthew 26:38-43