When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.-John 19:30
Its Friday…. but Sunday’s coming. However, it was the longest Friday for the first disciples. They lingered at the foot of the Cross for a while. We don’t need to rush to Easter. Good Friday is an invitation for us to linger at foot of the Cross. It is our opportunity to attend to the invitation of our Lord.
My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me. -Matthew 26:38
The foot of the Cross is our place until Easter comes. Our thoughts should be directed to the Man who hung on the Cross on this day. His death makes a difference in how we perceive ourselves and the world.
Many people tried to tarry with him in his final moments but they failed. Some were absent at the foot of the Cross. Some felt that they failed him. Some benefitted from His death. Some couldn’t care less. All these attitudes are still with us today.
There was Judas. He wanted to do something for Jesus and himself. His betrayal wasn’t about the thirty pieces of silver. Many speculate about his motivations. Some think that he wanted to speed things along for Jesus’ kingdom. The outcome was not what he expected. He wanted Jesus to react, perhaps violently against the authorities but Jesus just remained silent. He did not understand that this world was not His kingdom. Judas wanted to see some concrete results but he only saw what he perceived as a failure. Things did not turn out according to his expectations. He could not manipulate the King to act in tandem with his desires. His desires led him to his demise. If he had lingered at the foot of the Cross, maybe he could have learned something different or maybe not. We will never know. He did not linger around for the Cross.
Then we have Pontius Pilate. It was a strange choice for the gospels to portray this man as being sympathetic to Jesus. He was a brutal governor. He was not known for his clemency. Despite his despotic tendencies, he was not able to convince the crowd to do the right thing. It just reveals how impotent tyrants are when it comes to doing what is right. They can only do things that are detrimental to themselves and those around them. The evangelists did not make Pilate out to be a good man. They revealed his true nature. He was a weak ruler. He washed his hands of all responsibilities. He did not want anything do to with the Cross.
Barabbas benefitted the most from Jesus’ passion. He escaped a certain death. We don’t hear anything about him after this. He must have been grateful to the religious authorities who manipulated the crowds to save his life instead of Jesus. It did not seem to bother him that an innocent man died instead of him. He never sought Jesus or his disciples. He never bothered to linger at the foot of the Cross. He was most likely afraid. This is understandable but he still could have sought out the disciples later. Maybe he did but we will never know.
The good thief had nothing to gain. He did not choose to be at the Cross. However, he did choose to acknowledge Jesus’ lordship even on the Cross. He knew that there were no more possibilities for him. It is doubtful that he even understood the words of Jesus when He said, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:43) However, it did not matter. They were spoken to him by a Man whom he recognized as different and special. The only thing he could cling to at that moment was the words of this wonderful Man who shared his pain and death.
The centurion saw everything and was became frightened. He realized that this was not a regular execution. It was something that would change the way we understood our existence. He watched everything from the foot of the Cross and he proclaimed the only thing he could say, “Truly this was the Son of God!”(Matthew 27:54)
Finally, we come to the women and the disciples. The women and John were at the foot of the cross. The disciples observed from a distance. They watched the only person who made their lives real and wonderful expire on the Cross. They stayed and watched every moment of it. The disciples wished that they could have been closer. None of them ever wanted to be apart from Him. They lingered in spirit with the women at the foot of the Cross. They saw what the centurion saw and experienced with one major difference. They wanted to be there. They wanted to be there with Him and partake in His sufferings. For those who lingered at the Cross, the message of Easter meant a new beginning. It wasn’t just a happy ending to an otherwise tragic tale. It marked the Beginning of understanding life and death.
We tend to rush to Easter. Apart from the Catholic and Anglican churches, most evangelical churches don’t observe Good Friday but they have a celebration for Easter. Easter without Good Friday produces an inadequate theology. The Cross is something even our children in the streets can identify. I brought an illustrated Bible to the streets once and one of the boys turned to the page on the crucifixion and asked Mary to read to him. He wasn’t interested in Easter. It is too foreign to him. The Cross is something that resonates with him. It is the moment that most human beings can identify. It was a moment of despair and hopelessness. Jesus never avoided it. The disciples were forced to confront it. The women stood and wept at the presence of it. The miracle of Easter is only powerful when we are willing to linger at the foot of the Cross and face the greatest fear of humanity. Jesus faced it without any protest or attempts of self-defense. He faced it in order to reveal a greater power hidden within the message of the Cross. Those who lingered at the foot of the Cross discovered this power. We need to linger there to discover the more profound meaning of Easter.