Good Friday: "Ends and beginnings" - Holy Week Devotions

"Torn" by Mike Moyers. MikeMoyersFineArt.com. Permission for use granted by artist, 2021.
"Torn" by Mike Moyers. MikeMoyersFineArt.com. Permission for use granted by artist, 2021.

Fifth in a series of devotions for Holy Week written by United Methodist pastors.

Scripture: Mark 15:33-41

Artist: Mike Moyers 

"Torn Veil" by Mike Moyers. 

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”

Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.

Devotion

A dimmed light in theater cues the ending of a scene. The darkness signals the curtain to close. A part of the story has ended. If the protagonist is dead at this end, then we know it is a tragedy. Jesus’ death is a disappointment for those who hoped that he would rise as a new political leader to overthrow the oppressive colonial power of Rome and rebuild the nation that would protect them. For those who executed his death sentence, it is a clear victory against a rebel. This seemingly failed attempt closes the curtain on the story, at least for many human eyes.
 
From the wider viewpoint of faith, however, it is not. It signals something totally otherwise. At the moment of Jesus’ loud cry and his last breath, there the curtain in the temple is torn in two. This is the curtain that the God-fearing and Law-abiding Jewish people had put up to keep some out. It is torn “from top to bottom” (v. 38) because God breaks the division between the holy and the ordinary and erases the line between what is acceptable and unacceptable.
 
The death of Jesus is an opening. God opens the closed curtains that we so often put up and walks into our lives. God is not only within our reach, but also reaches out to all humanity with the redeeming grace of the cross. God treasures our ordinary life as a part of eternity. God turns the ends of human tragedy into new beginnings because God’s redemptive story always eradicates any human-made divisive binaries we put up on earth. God follows neither the Roman Empire nor the Jewish Law. God builds a new kin-dom on earth according to God’s all-embracing love. God is... and God does. 

For reflection

  • “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” by Lao Tzu. 

Prayer

O God, help us feel your presence in our daily lives, in our pain and our despair. Open our eyes to see your new beginnings in our endings. Guide us to live as a part of your redemptive story. Amen. 

The Rev. Dr. Hannah Ka is Pastor of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in San Diego, California. Media contact: Joe Iovino, United Methodist Communications.