I thought about trying to host a Passover meal for my family this year.
I love the history and the symbolism involved. I read about the crackers and eggs and the cup of wine for Elijah, etc. I was all about the neat little plate, a wheel of meaningful dishes. Then I got to the part about the main dish and paused. I couldn’t quite see my family going for lamb. We’re not vegetarians, so I get it—meat is meat. We eat animals all the time…cute, innocent animals. But a baby sheep didn’t set well with me.
In a short span of time, I considered all the alternatives. We could just make beef or chicken…but then it wouldn’t be Passover, would it? I nearly laughed. No, that would defeat the purpose. Jeweliet jokingly suggested we go with crackers shaped like sheep or some other “Sunday school version” of lamb. Clean up the whole image, the whole message. I shut my computer, my research. I’m not going to do it. Something about eating an innocent lamb disturbed me.
When the sun rose on Good Friday, a horrible pain surged through my head. I still don’t know if it was a migraine or simply the aftermath of too much time in the sun the day before with too little water, but I felt miserable. As I lay in bed, hiding my head under a pillow, I thought about Good Friday and how uncomfortable it can make me feel. Do I celebrate? Do I mourn? My God died a brutal death. I was redeemed. Furthermore, I know what happened the following Sunday. It gives me an uneasy, unsure feeling.
Thankfully, the headache passed and I was well enough to cook dinner. Though the lamb is traditionally roasted whole (“for none of His bones shall they break,”) Good Friday found me crushing salmon with a potato masher, bones and all. And though I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating a baby lamb, I never flinched when I sloshed blood from the pan of roasts I’d been thawing—a red sea under a white paper towel, wiped up and forgotten. And surely there is some symbolism hidden in the moment when I reached for an egg to mix into the salmon and, upon trying to crack it, discovered it was hardboiled? (I’ll let you know if I come to anything.)
Saturday morning I woke up early, feeling refreshed. No headache, no grogginess. I actually forgot to make coffee in my eagerness to get to the grocery store, grab last minute ingredients, choose a balloon for the baby’s Easter basket, trim the tulips, make breakfast and prepare for dinner. I was up before the buttercups were open. The country roads were foggy and muted. Our usually congested streets were open and still, as most of the students are away for the holiday weekend. Being out at that hour naturally drew my mind to Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the empty tomb. I love that women were the first to see Jesus’ empty tomb and enjoy imagining myself among them. They were there to keep vigil—I imagine them organizing meals for Jesus’ mother, too. They were brave to be associated with Him and it was appropriate for them to fall down and worship when they saw Jesus that morning, alive and well. But a little further down in the passage, we see the disciples meeting Jesus for the first time since His resurrection and I find that I relate to them even better.
Matthew 28 says that many of the disciples fell down and worshiped Jesus as the women had done, “but a few hung back.” Easter can make me feel that way, too. What do you say to a friend when you realize he is God Almighty, creator of the universe? What do you say to a human who has been in the grave for over a day and is now standing before you, speaking and breathing? What do you say to this friend, your God, after you’ve betrayed Him? Not only betrayed but betrayed while He was sacrificing His life for you? Could they have even begun to understand the veil, torn from top to bottom? The eclipse and the earthquake? The blood of an innocent man, hung on a tree?
I like to see myself as a woman at the tomb, waiting faithfully for God. I like to see myself falling down at His feet and worshipping in perfect trust and understanding. I don’t like to imagine myself standing awkwardly in the background, watching the other disciples worship, wondering what in the world I have done, what in the world I should do. Having flashbacks to Friday when I panicked, fled, hid out and abandoned the only person who ever truly, completely loved me.
I don’t like to see myself as Peter, giving into peer pressure and totally losing it. I don’t like to see myself as Judas, thinking I know better than God. I don’t like to see myself as Pilate, washing my hands of the only blood that could save me from myself. I don’t like to see myself as Barabbas, a name which means “son of a man,” basically “any man”…all of us, condemned to die for his own crimes and then released, free of charge. I don’t like to see myself as the jeering crowd, the laughing thief, the soldiers having a good time with his clothes and personal belongings while he suffocated nearby. I don’t like to see myself as a nail, puncturing and passing through Jesus’ wrists, wedged into the wood, so as to make Him dangle and gasp and suffer excruciating pain but there I am.
Even the sacrificial lamb was killed quickly with one swish of a knife and here am I, 2,000 years later, turning up my nose. Something about eating an innocent lamb still doesn’t sit well with me. I can almost hear Pilate’s voice coming out of my own mouth, “This man’s blood will be upon you and not me.” Oh, what a fool, what fools are we. Judas’ betrayal didn’t happen when he accepted the twenty pieces of silver. It didn’t happen when he led the mob of soldiers to the place where he knew Jesus prayed, torches blazing. It didn’t happen when he greeted him with a kiss. It happened when he saw what was happening and turned away, walked away, found a rope, strung it up and—not knowing what else to do—took his own life. Oh Judas, Judas—we are all phonies. We are all thieves and traitors and murderers. We all wish we could throw the silver back into the pot, realizing we have betrayed innocent blood. But we can’t. We can’t undo it, we can’t fix it, we can’t pay it back.
Judas’ betrayal didn’t happen when he accepted the money, but when he turned down the gift.
Fifty days after that one solid day that Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, Pentecost came around. Perhaps the Jewish leaders were starting to breathe again—the rebels had all fled and their leader was gone. Maybe this whole thing would blow over. Peter, who was earlier so afraid of people that he denied ever having known Jesus, stands in front of a huge crowd of Jews and practically shouts, “This man, Jesus, who came into your hands by God’s sure plan and advanced knowledge, you nailed to a cross and killed in collaboration with lawless outsiders. But God raised Jesus and unleashed Him from the agonizing birth pangs of death, for death could not possibly keep Jesus in its power.”
Upon hearing this—that they had crucified the Messiah, scripture tells us, “Their hearts were pierced” and they asked, “Our brothers, what should we do?”
And that brings us up to date. 2017. Oh, brothers, what should we do? We nailed God to a tree and cursed Him. We didn’t see Him, didn’t know Him, didn’t accept His love. We missed it. We messed up. We didn’t “make a mistake,” we saw something good and we intentionally stomped it out. It was our fault. Peter answers them, “Reconsider your lives; change your direction. Participate in the ceremonial washing of baptism in the name of Jesus God’s Anointed, the Liberating King. Then your sins will be forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit will be yours. For the promise of the Spirit is for you, for your children, for all people—even those considered outsiders and outcasts—the Lord our God invites everyone to come to Him.” (Acts 2:38-39)
Admit that you need the blood. Accept Jesus’ lavish adoration for you.
You are invited.
I feel ashamed of Good Friday, but I’m a resurrected soul.
I live in Sunday now.