Good Friday Devotional by Rev. Sarah Garret Krey

Group 236

There is so much heartbreak and violence and devastation in the story we hear on Good Friday – from Judas’s betrayal, bringing a detachment of soldiers to confront and arrest Jesus. To Peter’s denial of Jesus, not once, but three times. To Jesus being questioned and beaten by the authorities. We hear the people given a choice between violence and mercy – “Crucify him!” they shout, over and over again. 

In an attempt to mock and humiliate him, they press a crown of thorns onto Jesus’s brow and throw a purple robe around him, and forcing him to carry his own cross – his own instrument of torture and death, they lead him to Golgotha. And in front of his mother. In front of his family, Jesus is crucified. 

From John, the 19th chapter: “After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

About 10 years ago, I took a friend to his first Good Friday service. He grew up Christian, but his church tradition didn’t include an observance of Good Friday, so a service that took place largely in darkness, where we heard the brutal account of Jesus’s crucifixion and then left in somber silence – well, it was jarring for him. 

We walked quietly to a nearby restaurant to get some dinner after the service. It was odd to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the wait staff, and the lively conversations of the restaurant patrons around us – folks just out on a normal Friday night. But there we sat, in a sort of dazed silence, trying to process the fact that life was still moving all around us while we grieved the death of Jesus. 

At one point, my friend tried to make some lighthearted joke during dinner, and we both half heartedly chuckled. Then he said, “It feels wrong to laugh. You know, after that service. It doesn’t feel like I’m allowed to laugh. It’s weird and uncomfortable. I don’t like leaving church that way – sad. Hopeless.” After a moment, I said, “Yeah – that’s what Good Friday feels like. I hate it, too.” We sat there for a while and both sipped our waters in silence. 

“I am thirsty,” Jesus says from his brokenness upon the cross. “I am thirsty.”

The experience of Good Friday feels like walking through the desert with no water to sustain us. One betrayal, one denial, one strike of the violent fist, one injustice after another. After all of that, hanging there on the cross – it is no surprise that Jesus is thirsty. Parched. His well has run dry. He longs for cool, refreshing water. But in one final denial of his humanity – he receives only sour wine. And it is finished. 

Perhaps you, too, walk away from Good Friday feeling parched. Struck by the discomfort and pain and hopelessness of it all – the violence and the heartbreak and the death – the very worst that humanity has to offer, unleashed upon a man, unleashed upon a God whose only desire for this world is love and liberation from the sin and death and powers that bind us. Perhaps you, too, walk away from Good Friday thinking, “I am thirsty.” Thirsty for peace in a world that so often chooses violence. Thirsty for justice in a world that deals in oppression and discrimination and hatred. Thirsty for mercy in a world that demands vengeance. Thirsty for hope in a world that, at times, makes us feel utterly hopeless. 

Good Friday is a jarring experience. We are left to sit in the silence. In the grief. In the thirst. We long for the good news – for the promise of Easter resurrection to fill us with hope and joy and laughter again. But here, on Friday, here in the midst of the brokenness and sin and struggle that plague our lives and our world – the hope of Sunday feels so far away.  

Of course, we know how this story ends. We know that as people of resurrection, when we are parched, when our wells have run dry and we reach for relief – because of Jesus, because of Good Friday, we receive not sour wine, but living water that satisfies all our parched places. Water that will revive us and bring us to new life.

Still, today, as we sit in the grief, as we thirst for peace and justice and hope and life in abundance for this world God so loves – we remember that Jesus knows what it is to thirst for those things, too. And that he is with us – even and especially – in the shadow of the cross. Amen.

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