From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
The scripture above recalls what Christians around the world remember on Good Friday. This is the day of death. When on a Roman torture tool, Jesus took the place of the world and forever changed our ability to have full access to God, no matter what we do to keep God at bay. Good Friday is the saddest day of the liturgical year. The darkness is palpable. This is the day when Christians are posed with the question of whether they REALLY want to follow Jesus.
Death by crucifixion was not only one of the most disgraceful forms of death but also one of the most dreaded and painful methods of execution in the ancient world. It was physically excruciating. It was humiliating. And, yet, it was necessary for the great story of our redemption.
In no way can I compare my human experience of choosing to die to myself to that of Christ, please hear me say that. What I can see, however, is the thread of journey. The fullness of the experience holds the road of surrender. And without this, we find a barrier to moving forward in faith. Without the excruciating, humility in the death of my need to control, there is no GOOD to my Friday.
There is a moment in any great story of sacrifice when the offering is passed from the giver to the receiver. Our modern world sees rare glimpses of sacrificial offerings, so it is hard for us to appreciate the significance of this moment. God gave the ultimate gift of a son. A SON. The significance and heaviness of which is not lost on my feeble attempt to define sacrifice.
For those that have walked into the brave waters of recovery, we know about sacrifice. We have seen in ourselves and in those around us the courage that this way of life requires. Time and time and time again we have been asked to walk away from the very things that have been our life-giving force. Sure, many of these same things have turned on us, but when your heartbeat and breath only know one rhythm, laying that steady pattern down is a death.
As is often true, days had passed from the drink and there was still death ahead. Work had been done on the identified issues and yet life seemed to be returning to a desolate ground of hopelessness. Until it was gone. And the truth was made clear. One way or another, death was going to happen.