My great-grandfather was a farmer in South Dakota. I had no idea anything grew in South Dakota. Maybe that’s why he always put in his spring crops on Good Friday. It didn’t matter whether Good Friday was in late March, like it is this year, or late April. He planted on Good Friday. He wasn’t a religious man, so I don’t think he was hoping for an extra measure of planting grace by selecting such an important day on the Christian calendar. Maybe the Farmer’s Almanac predictions coincided with Good Friday.
I’m sure Jesus was trusting that the seeds he planted in the hearts and minds of his followers would take hold. Everything was out of his hands by this point of his life.
Jesus started out the week being hailed as a celebrity when he rode into Jerusalem for the week of Passover, but soon learned there was a price on his head. The week would end in betrayal, false accusations, a mock trial, torture, denial, abandonment, execution, and death.
It’s been a week of grief in slow motion. Even if the others didn’t know the outcome, Jesus did. Death, even for Jesus, is a certainty. Death is a certainty for all of us. It’s the way of all life. We just don’t know how or when.
Good Friday is especially poignant for me this year. My family has been grieving in slow motion ever since my sister found my brother dead by his own hand. None of us had any idea how much suffering he was experiencing and he was not thinking of how much suffering we would experience with his death. Although I have been around a lot of death, even close friends and some family, my brother’s death has pierced my heart in ways I did not imagine.
Good Friday, in all of its solemnity, reminds us that life, even in death, is sacred and has its purpose. We may want to shortcut the bleakness of Good Friday and get to the celebration of Easter, but Easter is nothing without Good Friday. Death is essential to the Easter message.
So today I sit with my grief. I miss my brother. Probably not much different than Mary’s overwhelming sadness watching her son die and Jesus’ shocked friends wondering what’s in store for them now that he’s gone. So we gather at the foot of that cross. Silent and sad.