• Jim Lovelady

Day 39: Good Friday

Updated: Feb 24, 2021


"Oliver James lost in the rain, no longer."--Fleet Foxes

"But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”--John 3:21


Nicodemus is one of my favorite characters in the Jesus story. For me, he represents the wealthy, powerful suburbanite who has been curious but kept Jesus at a distance until this climactic moment:


Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.--John 19:38–40


Slow down. Picture this moment. The silence after the storm. The hopelessness. The darkness. The task of burial still at hand. Jesus said, "It is finished" but there are still things left unfinished. Jesus is dead but he still hangs on the cross and he has to be removed before Passover. His body is heavy, a mess of blood and sweat and mangled flesh. Nicodemus strains to understand what Jesus said to him that night so long ago, "But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”


Imagine Nicodemus holding Jesus' body as he carries it down from the cross. In the moment he is focused. Time stops as he considers…


...Everyone knows what you are doing...

...You're committing vocational and social suicide...

...But he can't stay on the cross during the feast!...

('Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up')

...Use your political and relational capital to convince Pilate to let you handle the situation with this man who claimed to be the messiah....

...Choose your language carefully....

...Make it easy for Pilate to keep his hands clean of this mess...

...Let Joseph claim Jesus' body from being thrown on the trash heap of Gehenna with the other victims Roman occupation...

('Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up')

...Bring the inheritance for your own funeral...

...Bring your linen and spices...

...It's an honor...

...You'll be unclean for the Passover...

...you get to be like the woman who washed his feet...

('Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up')

...The nails are not easily removed...

...Hold his head...

...His body is slippery so let the linen grab him...

...You are covered in a dead man's blood...

...You are unclean for the Passover...

...Disqualified...

...You have never missed a feast!...

...But all the other disciples have fled...

...And there is something about this Rabbi…

('Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up')

...This is a holy moment.




It is Good Friday and we cannot escape the cross. Though we distance ourselves from death, nevertheless, it finds us all. The darkness of the cross frightens us but there is something glorious about a mortal who would spurn the things they have valued for their entire life in favor of humility and brokenness, truth and love. There is something redemptive about a wealthy suburbanite who relinquishes the status he has been holding onto so he can care for the Rabbi he loves.


The one who came to Jesus in the darkness has now come into the light. It's scary to come into the light but the fact of the matter is, what you are making in that moment is more luminous than you realize. Nicodemus didn't feel the glory of what he was doing any more than you do when you move into dark situations with a resolute humility, paying no heed to your reputation or whatever consequences come from doing what love demands.


So come into the light.


You'll be tempted to stay in hiding but that only leads to death. Death crouches around every corner, in subtle corners of every single situation of your life--every single one! Death tempts us to selfishness and self-preservation but it is a lie that does not belong. In the moment it exerts its darkening supremacy we must be focused and ready to chose truth and love. We'll be tempted but we'll be lucid in recognizing our sense of self-preservation. We see clearly that the darkness of selfishness is encroaching. We see what is real, what is truth, what is love and what we must choose. And when we chose truth and love we become luminous. This is the gloriously human task at hand, to get our hands dirty, to become unclean for the holiness of the moment where the Spirit invites us to bring light into the darkness.


Come into the light and you will become luminous. Let your deep love for the Rabbi bring you into the light. Let what is true appear and love will illuminate a world that is in desperate need of generous friends.


I confess, the darkness seems so strong. Help me to do what is true and find that my works have been carried out in God. Give me the grace to come into the light. Amen.

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