At the small, country church of my childhood, 3 crosses would be placed by the roadside shortly before the week of Easter. The crosses would be bare or draped in purple for a time and then early in the morning on Good Friday a black cloth would be placed around the middle cross. Black, to symbolize the light of Jesus being extinguished and the heaviness of the world’s sin.
It’s not just a figurative darkness, it was a reality for those in the presence of Jesus at the time of his death, for as Luke records:
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three, because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, Father into Your hands I entrust My spirit” (Luke 23:44-46).
We feel this darkness today. Black seems like a fitting color to describe the loneliness and fear many are experiencing as we mourn the loss of our communities and live in fear of disease.
The story of the cross is also one of togetherness and solitude. Together, in a unique moment of fellowship, Jesus shares a meal in his final hours with his faithful companions and they accompany Him to the Garden of Gesthemane.
It is here that Jesus reveals his human heart, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch. And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:34).
While Jesus requested a time of solitude to pray, he kept his friends close. I can’t help but think that in his human frailty it was comforting to have them near to him.
In an instant, at the time of his arrest, Jesus is stripped from the company of his friends. While we know that God was with him, Jesus begins this portion of his journey alone. He is now surrounded by strangers and on this side of the crucifixion he will not join the company of his friends again.
This is the part of Jesus’ journey to the cross that we resonate with today. For many of us, our support groups vanished overnight. Work places, churches, schools, playgrounds and businesses closed. Believers keenly feel the loss of community. Easter week services often offer record numbers of church attendance with long lost friends and family. Instead, this season, we may get to experience Good Friday a little more like Jesus did. Families will be alone mourning the loss of large gatherings and Grandmas traditional dishes. Through our grief and isolation we may feel abandoned by God. In the silence and stillness of our lives sometimes personal reflection is dark. A month ago we might’ve had friends by our side in the garden when we prayed, but today we may suffer alone.
In the powerful words of Pastor S.M. Lockridge, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!”
As Christians, we live our whole lives in light of Sunday morning.
On the Easters of my childhood, come Sunday morning, the black cloth draped on the cross would be replaced with a white one. White to symbolize the perfect, pure, sacrifice of Jesus and the possibility that God could remember our sins no more.
On Monday morning we will wake up and many of us will remain in isolation. We could choose to pull back out the black cloth in order to mourn our current situation. The truth is that as believers, we don’t live in the shadow of the cross but in the fullness of the dawn of Jesus’ resurrection.
“Again, Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Easter is just what we need in the middle of this crisis to help us put our lives back in perspective.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Can we do that? Can we fix our eyes on Jesus? Have you lost sight of Him? This is the time to look for His provision, presence, and blessing in our lives. This is the time to recommit to Him through the study of His word and prayer. This is the time to live with an eternal perspective, living in light of our perfect inheritance so that each day brings us closer to Him.
We cannot wait until we are “released” to our normal lives to experience the joy of our salvation. The joy of Jesus’ resurrection and our hope in Him is what will sustain us through this time. So, we give a nod to the darkness, we acknowledge the gravity of our circumstances, but we fix our eyes on Jesus and follow Him into the light.