By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Something is different. You had expected to hang around Golgotha for most of the day as Jesus endured a slow, painful death. Then, as soon as you settle in for the long hours ahead, the sky grows black. Then Jesus yells out and lets go of life. Not in weak despair, but crying in trust to his Father. A wall has been broken. Death doesn’t seem to be the victor at this cross, though Jesus’ body is lifeless.
He did not grasp to hold life together. Jesus left any despair back in the garden where we began. Later you hear that the temple veil had been torn in two at the time of his death. Something is indeed different. Your assumptions about life and death have been upended and you don’t know why.
Sitting in a Good Friday service at the cathedral, I’m trying to hold it together. Rejected in a relationship. Uncertain about my job. Lost. If I can just hold on and put back together what is ripped apart all will be okay. I bargain with God to let everything return to the way it was. Years later I’m back at the cathedral, bargaining about my parents’ health. Not merely praying for their healing from cancer, but also begging that my life would stay together so that I can remain in my comfortable life.
Yet, my selfish cries are not what I need. I need to be torn. To give up. To have the veil torn inside of me so that I can be open to God.
How many times do we use all of our energy holding together the dying pieces of our lives? The campus is full of people grasping an image for fear that without it they will be nothing: scholars, athletes, activists, performers. What if after all their work they don’t receive a degree or the tenure track position they’ve spent the last three years working on? Another way is unfathomable so they do everything they can to pull the pieces together even though the end is inevitable.
At times, giving up is what we need to do. Accept the tears in our lives so that we can gain life.
In the twelfth chapter of John’s gospel we struggle to really hear Jesus’ teaching: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” So often we want to stay in the kernel that we know.
However, there is peace in giving up that which is dying in our lives. In the stillness of Jesus’ death, even in the uncertainty, a new peace was invading the world. A peace in which we don’t have to hold on to ephemeral hopes, but can entrust our lives to our steadfast and faithful Father. Though we may have to wait for the next thing, we wait with hope because darkness descended on Golgotha that afternoon.
Where are you torn today and need to hear Jesus’ cry of hope?
Jesus, help us walk in your steps.
Image credit: JESUS MAFA. The Crucifixion; Jesus dies on the cross, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48390 [retrieved March 31, 2017].