Pondering Good Friday

Today, Good Friday of 2015, I ponder not only the Crucifixion of my King, but also the most recent news. Headlines of recent massacres – as recent as yesterday in Kenya – of Christians killed because they believe that Jesus is who He says He is. We call them martyrs.

I’ve been thinking about the actual blood spilled by those martyrs. It pumped through their veins like mine does. Perhaps in those last few moments, it strummed frantically through their bodies, their hearts thumping wildly in their chests. And then it was spilled out. It was released through holes made by bullets, knives, machetes and bombs. It didn’t stay in the air. It fell to the ground where it sank into dirt and sand and stones. It became earth beneath our feet.

And then I think about that earth beneath our feet. He is Lord of All. Lord of creature and creation. In the nineteenth chapter of Luke, I read about the King’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which we just celebrated. While He rides on the donkey, those who believe that He is who He says He is lay out their cloaks on the road for him to pass over and praise Him, saying: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

The Pharisees, or the naysayers, the legalists, the doubters, didn’t like it. They demanded of Jesus that he shut them up. But he refused. And this is what He said: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

Even the stones will cry out. The stones beneath our feet. They would call Him King. They would praise His name and lift Him in honor. I wonder. What do they cry out when they are soaked with the blood of His martyrs? Are the stones silent then? Does the earth hold its breath, awaiting His response? Or, in some plane we cannot experience in our flesh, do the rocks cry out on behalf of those whose blood leaks in to the unpolished, porous surfaces? In a frequency not identified by human ears, does the earth moan and groan, calling out to Creator, in pools of blood sinking deeper and deeper into sand and dirt?

In 2000, a friend and I visited the concentration camp outside Dachau, Germany. We only spent a few hours in that place. But in those few hours, I was changed. I walked through the museum in a building made of concrete blocks placed one on top of the other by the prisoners who had lived and died in that place. I saw the propaganda put out by the Third Reich. I saw pictures of the prisoners and memorized the angular shapes of their cheek bones and the sunken darkness of their eyes. I walked the grounds where they stood at attention until they fell and were beaten. I entered the officers’ compound where the medical facility sat, dusted properly, displaying the tools used for torture and experimentation. I walked out into a walled courtyard where stone pillars stood, not yet crumbled, with iron manacles at their tops. I looked at the wall where prisoners had been lined up and shot. I really looked at that wall. Do you know what I saw? Amid the bullet holes were stains. Stains of blood from the martyrs who had died for Yehovah. Decades of storms and cleaning could not erase those stains. The blood had soaked in. Pools and pools of it, over and over again. It had soaked in, dying the world dark red.

Did those stones cry out? Did the dirt beneath and on top of their bodies lament? When the trees received their ashes, blown about by the winds of the earth, did they shake in fury or fear?

In the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew, we read an account of the crucifixion of Jesus. Matthew gives many details of what he witnessed. He says in verse forty-five that from the sixth hour to the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. And then he gives a wild account of what followed the moment of Jesus’ last breath: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:51-53)

The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open. Those are terrifying sounds. Loud bangs richoeting from house to house. The moans of those resurrected to bodies long buried. The screams of the people bearing witness to it all. Good Friday was, in fact, a terrible, painful, ferocious day of unrest, fear, and indeed, widespread panic. They could not know that the rocks crying out in the silence left by those who stopped calling Him King and began calling for his death instead would swallow his blood on Good Friday and split in grief, but be rolled away three days later to reveal a King returned, alive, fully healed. How could the people know His blood, poured out in pools that dripped from his side and down his legs, would be what saved them?

We rejoice then, today. We rejoice that there are those among us still willing to call Him King when the enemy calls them out by name, Christian, and spills their blood. We rejoice that when their blood sinks deep into the earth beneath our feet that there is a response. A response of grief, yes. But a response that calls out life from death. A response that says because we are the Resurrection People, death is not the final answer for us. It is a beginning. And perhaps, today, in the quiet stillness of that beginning, we can hear the cadence of a new song. It is the song of the Bride who says to her Beloved, Come.

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