A meditation in poem on Good Friday (Matthew 27, Luke 23).
The morning came before sleep,
My eyes held open in hazy fear,
Body tense, and spirit quenched,
Fists holding tightly to nothing,
As if time could be restrained in the palm of my hand.
Death was in the air, and coming for me.
My sentence ringing in my ears,
As the bell of my fate chimed clear within,
The loneliness that filled my heart surpassed only by
The anger I felt for my lot in life.
“You are a thief,” came a voice from inside,
“But you don’t deserve this,” and I believed the voice.
I stole, but I am more than a thief. I am a man,
A good man, not perfect, but good,
And not deserving of this fate.
The voice grew quieter, whispering in faint tones,
But vanished as the locks cracked,
And the guards came to bring us into the light,
Where we would begin the long, slow walk,
Into the dawn that would end with our dusk.
We joined the procession behind the man,
Who was always surrounded by crowds,
Pressing ‘round to see or to touch.
Some watching, some shouting,
Others mocking, others weeping.
He first, another behind,
And me, watching and wondering at this strange scene.
A man of God, this prophet, this teacher,
Now condemned to die
Like a common criminal.
We came to the place they had prepared
For three criminals to be hung,
As symbols of justice,
And targets for insult,
And warnings to all who would see and would hear.
I watched as they laid him upon the wood,
My eyes turning as they readied his hands,
And listened as the hammer struck nail,
Piercing silence and flesh, the sound mixing
With the groan that arose from the crowd.
My eyes followed his as they raised him high
His, never rising, mine, never blinking
And the voice inside whispered softly
To pity him, no, to despise him,
Though I know not why.
I looked aside to see the cross
That would ferry me through final breaths
To the end that had filled my thoughts for days.
I felt hands moving me forward,
My steps and my heart both pounding in fear.
Time seemed to stop, or moved quickly forward,
Interrupted by pain that should have been sharp,
But one dulled by the daze
Of heat and sweat and tears
And sounds of the ropes and the groans of the soldiers below.
Then sky turned to horizon, and horizon to earth,
And earth to the eyes I could see
Now fixed on the man hanging at my side.
And I heard them whisper in one another’s ears,
The murmuring broke finally by a shout.
“Come down,” one cried, “If you are God’s Son.”
And the silence that held court that morning,
Became laughter and spite as their boldness grew firm.
“He saved others, but he can’t save himself,”
Nails meant to pierce not hands but his soul.
Their words met my heart in an angry embrace,
And the voice inside became words on my tongue
As I joined in the chorus that continued to rise,
To his right, to his left, and below,
Whilst above, there was but silence.
We mocked and we spit and we cried,
Because of how it made us feel:
Powerful, whole, and right.
This man who claimed things no man should claim,
Now no better than a thief.
But then darkness came,
First to the sky, then to my soul,
As my waning thoughts and breath,
Were quickened by the fear and dread,
Not of death, but of my sin.
I saw my own soul, dead, in the ground,
The reward of my deeds was mine.
And this man I had mocked by my side,
Reaching to take my hand,
Leaning down to breathe upon my face.
I turned my gaze anew to this man.
“Jesus,” I cried. “Remember me!”
And He turned His head as my soul arose,
His gaze meeting mine as new light poured like living water,
Giving strength within as my body grew weak.
There was now something different, marvelously different.
I thought He may have changed,
Or perhaps it was me,
Once seeing a man upon a cross,
And now seeing my sin upon this cross.
I watched Him dying, and I heard Him cry out,
Not like the sound of a man or a beast,
But an anguish that could come only
From the throat of a god whose very soul
Bends beneath the weight of the world.
This was a cry that changes the world,
Where dead men are raised and rocks are split,
Where mortal earth cries out
As the divine tears in two for the briefest of moments,
When sinners are made right with a holy God.
My own darkness soon came, but before it did,
I saw the truth that my eyes had not seen.
I am a thief, but one loved.
And darkness came, and then light,
And I saw Him again, now forever His.