April 10, 2020
Luke 23:44-49 (NIV)
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
There is a word here I never really noticed until today. Perhaps you haven’t either. I suspect not. I suspect you may be like me in that I think I know the story of Jesus’ passion. After all, I’ve read it a thousand times; sort of. Because of this, I am always tempted to not read it again this year. I mean, it’s spread out across four different books and it feels largely redundant except for the unique parts each holds and I assume I know those well enough. At least this is how my lazy mind works; or doesn’t work.
Isn’t this the point of Good Friday coming around every year? Is it to salute the Cross, thank Jesus, move on to Easter and back to the grind of next week? Or might Good Friday invite yet another shipwreck of my well ordered life and routine; or better, an awakening of my preoccupied soul? It brings me to the text I never noticed before.
It wasn’t the three hours of darkness at high noon, or the tearing of the Temple curtain from top to bottom or Jesus’ cries from the Cross or the Roman Centurion’s declaration of faith. It was this line:
But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
There is a group of people standing off to the side, at a distance. They are watching all of this unfold. We don’t know how many there were in the group. We know there were women from Galilee. We know them simply as, “all those who knew him.” Today, I am watching them watching him and I find myself being drawn to walk into their sad circle and watch all “these things” with them.
We are them—”all those who knew him.” We aren’t on the front row. We are standing at a distance “watching these things.”
I was on a call with my band this morning and as one of my bandmates prayed for me he prayed I would, “know my context.” I like I found a diamond on the ground. I have been pulling it out of my pocket all day and looking at its many facets. What is my context?
In these days in the Valley of the Shadow of COVID-19 we all find ourselves in a quite strange context. We find ourselves standing at a distance, watching all these things we never imagined before unfold around us. We find ourselves standing at a distance from each other. Even though many of us are physically closer to our own immediate families than ever before, it accentuates how distant from one another we have actually become.
Something about these days even has us standing at a distance from ourselves. It is a surreal moment; a rare liminal season of life. Our context, right now—today—is liminal. It means an in-beween place, a threshold of sorts. Something deep within tells us we are not who we were before this present crisis, and yet we don’t quite know who we will be on the other side of it. On the one hand, we know ourselves and our propensity to snap back into the same old us. On the other hand, we know Jesus, and find ourselves deeply aware of the possibilities of walking out of this time into a new way of living and being our true selves.
This is our context. It makes this a very different Good Friday, a rare opportunity for us who know him to stand at a distance, “watching these things,” seeking a better perspective a richer point of view.
This strange context of life in liminality, of standing at a distance; it could be the gifted space we needed most.
It is Good Friday, the perfect day to pray with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” How about we meet today at 3pm in the mysterious bond of the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and let’s pray this utterly simple all-encompassing prayer, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
People who say such things . . .
Father, I want to be a person who says such things. I want to pray with Jesus today, as he gave up his life that I might be given mine. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Thank you, Jesus, for showing me this way of giving up my life to the Father that I might truly receive my life from him. I have clung to my spirit long enough. It is time to commit it to you, completely, unreservedly, with abandon. Into your hands, Lord Jesus, I commit my spirit. Come Holy Spirit, and train me to be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Will you be at the meeting? 3pm today, wherever you find yourself, stealing the moment to say the words he most longs to hear from us. I’ll see you there.
For the Awakening,