It was very strange not to be able to gather yesterday to remember the final meal Jesus shared with his followers, the Last Supper, and to keep watch for a while recalling the time afterwards when Jesus went with his followers to the Mount of Olives. The Gospel of Luke describes what may well have been Jesus having what we would today call a panic attack caused by anxiety as he asked God whether his sacrifice HAD to happen:
‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done…….
Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ (St Luke 22: 42-44)
His disciples having fallen asleep, Jesus was alone when he most needed support and, if he was sweating at that hour of the night, this was likely to be the cold sweat of fear. But Jesus still found the strength and courage to persevere despite what was happening and his example then may hearten us as we now endure isolation, anguish, and uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic.
Jesus’ fear was well founded due to his later arrest, trial, terrible suffering and dreadful death. Although the actual place is disputed, the crucifixion probably happened in an awful place where not only criminals were put to death but the bodies of animals sacrificed in the Temple were brought to be burned like rubbish nearby.
Some weeks ago, I was sent a crucifix on stained glass which had been thrown away with a lot of rubbish and was fished out by the skip collector who then asked his son to bring it here. It seems appropriate to place it on the bare altar this Good Friday when the death of Jesus outside the city wall of Jerusalem is remembered and when life today has had to be stripped of so much that usually gives us purpose, joy and hope.
In the terrible circumstances of the anxiety, suffering, anguish and death being caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, the sacrificial death of Jesus may enable us to find the strength and courage to persevere with the sacrifices being asked of us all this Good Friday. For this is only part of the unfolding story and, despite it all, hope lives on. Doesn’t it?