Holy Week 2013

Good Friday

In this week of ambiguities, with all its apparently unfinished business, surely death is final. Jesus has made a kind of last testament in teaching his followers how to remember him; he has gone into a criminal justice system that nobody comes out of alive; he has been publicly crucified; and he has made arrangements for his mother.

As he hangs on the cross - though hang is a rather bland word for what actually happens in crucifixion, the cruellest torture devised by man up until that time- his possessions are being disposed of and everybody is in a hurry to get home for Passover. And then there is the piercing of his side; the blood and water; and the entombment. Game over.

Yet there is an apparent redactive dichotomy in the Gospels, reflected in the last utterances of Jesus; John portrays Christ in triumph on the cross while Matthew and Mark paint a much grimmer picture, with Luke between the two. Indeed, Mark and Matthew were so pessimistic that the great theologian, Albert Schweitzer came to the conclusion that Jesus' earthly ministry was all there was.

But the thing about this man, his followers know - and is it too sentimental or over-balancing to give more credit to the women than the men - as they huddle in the place where they last ate together, is that he has always absolutely, to the letter, kept the promises he has made; and, more often than not, he has under promised and over-delivered. They can't all remember everything; they do not, after all, think of themselves as the subjects of sacred writing or even a chronicle, but the general drift of what Jesus has said is in their collective psyche; and some of them can remember individual expressions. Something is on the cards; nothing is over; but they don't know what.

Somebody remembers a long, somewhat discursive, pronouncement by Jesus about sending the Holy Spirit in his place; but a couple of them still stubbornly hold to the view that Jesus said something about coming again. Peter is speechless after his denial of Jesus and the shameful death of his Master for which he feels responsible; but John tells a story about going up a mountain and seeing Jesus looking like a heavenly being. Perhaps that is what it will be like. They don't know; but it isn't quite over, yet.