Saturday, March 22, 2008

Why Good Friday's Great

Although I'm still busy with my remodeling I thought it would be appropriate to post a monologue I was asked to write for a Good Friday service. I hope the Easter season finds you all well.
Imagine a street just outside the city wall of Jerusalem. It is around 50 A.D. and a weathered old man sits on a corner, as if he’s waiting on someone or something.

“Excuse me—excuse me, young man. May I have a moment of time? I promise I’ll be brief. Don’t look so afraid; I’m merely a tired old man in need of some assistance. Wait—please don’t go, wait just a minute. Ah, here they are—two pieces of silver. Oh I know it’s not much, but it’s all that I have. Please accept them. You see, I have a very important meeting I must keep; an anniversary with an old friend you might say. Won’t you appease a ragged old soul and walk along side me for a moment? Here let me take hold of your arm, my eyes are dim and as I recall the road is quite steep and littered with stones.”

“Certainly I have a name, and although it is difficult to tell from my appearance now, I once held an important position. But neither my name nor my title is relevant any longer. In fact there is much of the past I’d do well to forget. In my youth I was a rough piece of coral, jagged and dangerous, but as the sea has its way with the coral, so does time with a man’s misguided intentions. Time has a way of polishing things, taking away the dangerous edges, smoothing them into something more universally acceptable.”

“Yes, we’re getting close now—look just ahead and you’ll see it. They call it Golgotha—The Place of the Skull. Over the years many men were crucified here, very near the spot you’re now standing. Come, let us rest on this large stone while I tell you the story of one man in particular.”

We knew him as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. His wisdom and eloquent words far exceeded his years. He performed undeniable feats of healing with merely the touch of his hand. Many believed his spiritual knowledge surpassed that of the Pharisees. People whispered quietly at first, but then voices became louder and bolder; proclaiming him as the messiah, the promised one. Some of his teachings went against the law of the day, the Pharisees and Caesar’s government became alarmed with Jesus following and eventually concluded they must end what they perceived as a threat.

They breached his inner circle, finding a weak link from within. They convinced one of his closest followers to accept a bribe. Then they arrested him and brought him before Pilate, seeking some kind of charge against him. Pilate could find no fault with the man, but the gathering crowd became persistent and unruly; so much so that Pilate feared their actions. During Passover the law allowed one prisoner to be set free. He believed with certainty, presented with a choice they would free Jesus, but the mob demanded Barabbas be freed instead and Jesus to stand in his place. With that the crowd grabbed him and prepared to crucify him.

Perhaps I should spare your impressionable young mind as well as my minds-eye the barbaric details. Roman Centurion’s oversaw the flogging and humiliation of the man they called “King of the Jews.” They thrust a crown made of thorns on his head, taunted, and beat him all the way up the hill. Once they arrived here the soldiers drove spikes through his hands and his feet, securing him to the cross.

Waiting for death is never pleasant, even for those that simply watch. In the sixth hour darkness swallowed the sky and eeriness settled over the crowd, then in the ninth hour Jesus cried out his final words; “It is finished!” At that moment the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, the ground shook violently, and rocks split in two. It was at that moment I was convinced, this Jesus had been no ordinary man.

Slowly the crowd dispersed and went back to their homes, some perhaps regretting their involvement, yet I can only speak for myself. Yes…..I was there that day, among the crowd, and it still weighs heavy on my heart. In fact after witnessing the events I rushed home and wept bitter tears, yet somehow I knew I must record these emotions stirring within. In fact, this scroll I carry with me is the one I wrote that very day. Perhaps it is time I read it aloud, other than to the walls of my home.


Some claim a blasphemous heathen served justice by the horde,
others espouse the ‘King of the Jews’ was savior and lord.
Pilate could find no charge, yet they insisted in foregone conclusions;
irreversible actions fueled by conjured delusions.
Old Testament prophesies fulfilled through hands of the willing;
those naïve to the sanctity of the blood they were spilling?

Angry skies loomed closer, now swallowed in swirls of black;
Even the heavens cried out, wishing the crucified back.
The crowds had dispersed, satisfied with the finality of death
yet one remained hours after Jesus had drawn his last breath,
examining closely his role in brutal events just occurred;
granting a voice to emotions so unexpectedly stirred.

“Father in heaven, for what reason do you still grant me breath?
My transgressions so great, surely they have sealed my death.
Say it so Father God, and the ground shall split open and swallow me whole,
where the serpent and demons may feed on my miserable soul.
Would be a kinder fate than to face the savior I beat;
for it was these regrettable hands that drove spikes through his hands and his feet!”

“Despite these failing eyes I can see your disappointment; certainly no more so than I in myself. But this story does not end in death, it is alive with birth. It was this very place where so many have died that our most merciful God in heaven saw fit to grant me new life. Sixty years ago, I began a relationship I had in no way earned. A relationship of divine creation, meant for anyone who will ask for it—even the man who drove the spikes.”

“Here, take this with you. I have no use for the scroll any longer. Share it with your family and the community; it is a message that should never be forgotten.”

“Son, your company has far exceeded the price of two silver pieces, but it’s time we both headed for our homes. No, you must return to city alone. Don’t fret over a weary old man. These eyes have seen many things and now they must rest. Run along now before your parents are filled with worry. My friend will be arriving soon, and without a doubt and just as he promised, he will carry me to my home.


Jo Janoski said...

This is so beautiful. Well done, bringimg the story right into our hearts.

Stacey said...

Well written Dan, lovely words!!:)

Dan said...

Thanks ladies. Hope the Easter season has treated you well. Jo, hope your dog is doing as well as can be expected.

Jo Janoski said...

Thanks Dan.

Shirley said...

Dan, I agree. This is very moving. You have indeed brought the story of death back to life!

hfurness said...

Very well done. Each of us play our part in the passion. thank you for this...

janetleigh said...

Coming to you by way of Stacey's blog, Thank God, or I would never have seen your powerful Easter story. This is a magnificent read, Sir, in a way that makes His passion real and tangible for all. Up there with the best..:)