This is a Good Friday like no other I have ever experienced. I pray that it is never repeated. Across our world there is a pandemic, snatching lives, separating loved ones, crushing hopes and dreams. The suffering now is extreme and it will continue even after the power of the virus has diminished because of the impact on incomes, relationships and mental health. Those who have given out in heroic ways will themselves need a lot of space to recover.
Because of this, the most agonising of the cries from the cross is somehow particularly relevant this year. Shouted into the darkness, it was a cry of utter desolation. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. All through Jesus’ life he has held in his memory and his spirit that reminder of who he is – the Father’s “Beloved Son”. But now, there is no sound from heaven, no sound at all, and the memory must have seemed almost a mockery.
This sense of abandonment is surely something with which many of us can identify, whether in this current crisis or at other times. I certainly can. People of deep faith are not immune, and in many ways for us the pain is particularly acute. When the friendship which has been the thread running through your life seems somehow disrupted, it can feel as though everything that held your life together is unravelling beyond repair.
Christians believe that at this moment, Jesus was paying the ultimate price for humanity’s capacity for evil, and that is why he could not sense God. At that moment, all the violence of the world was there. All the broken promises were there. All the murder, all the killing, all the hatred between people, all the injustice. All the theft was there, all the adultery, all the pornography, all the drunkenness, all the bitterness, all the greed, all the gluttony, all the abuse of ourselves or others, all the crime, all the cursing. Every vile deed, every wicked thought, every act of self-seeking —all of it was somehow absorbed by Jesus when he hung on the cross. No wonder it was dark. Darker surely in his beautiful spirit, the light of the world, than in the physical world surrounding him.
Yet surely there is more here for us in this particular season we find ourselves forced to endure. Jesus at that moment knew an isolation like no other. Cut off from any sense of love, of connection, not just with his Father and the Spirit but from those too who were at the foot of the cross, who were seeing his suffering yet unable to reach out a hand, to give human warmth and reassurance.
Yet in this very darkness and isolation is our hope. In the moments of our deepest fear, our most raw hurt, our sense of isolation, our feeling most abandoned, we have a companion who has been there and will be there for us. Because of his forsakenness, he is there when we feel we have no God. In our own dark Fridays, our own dark days, he understands. There is no place he has not been, and no place he cannot enter with his gentle presence. We may not sense him at the time, but he is there.
May a sense of that presence, even in the darkness, be your experience in this difficult season and beyond.