John 18 & 19 (selected verses)
Jesus Doesn't Explain Suffering...His Story Does


Good Friday Thoughts Before Scriputures are read ~ Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook ~ April 10, 2020  

One of the timeless questions that toddlers, teens, twenty-somethings, and even people in their twilight years struggle with is ‘why do bad things happen to good people’. Or even more simply ‘why do (these) bad things happen?’ This is a question that many find themselves asking today, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic; this is a question we have been asking for generation upon generation: ‘why’   As I spend time with people journeying through difficult chapters in their lives, the question of suffering inevitably arises. It might not immediately be a direct part of the conversation, pointed right at God. But, inevitably, the question of ‘why’ arises amidst the struggles, amidst the tears, amidst the hollow feelings…’why’ we ask? Why do these things happen? Why do these things happen to my family? Why do these things happen to me? Why do these things happen to the world? ‘why’…’why’…’why’…?  

And when no logical reason is found ~ because we are people who need to make sense of things; when no one can point to something concrete in the cause and effect chain, as we reflect upon cause and consequence, we inevitably point our finger at this unknowable entity…God. What sort of God is this, we ask? How can God cause this? How can God allow this? Behind our tears; behind our pain; behind our suffering; we point at God wondering…why.  

Theologian Tom Long puts it this way “we want to love God with all our heart, but we also want to love God with our mind, too”. And what we discover this holy day of God’s Friday, is that the action of God is not to explain why, but rather God’s way is to enter into our suffering and to meet us…there. As we gather this Holy day, I invite you to look for God’s action in Jesus. We will discover that the Good Friday story is not one of riddles or parables; there are no teachings by a Galilean sea; there are no set of rules to memorize and follow. On Good Friday, we meet the darkest point within our humanity and we see that God has gone there with us, willingly. In this morning’s story, we will see the ugliness of humanity demonstrated in some, who are unlike us, and also…demonstrated in some who are much like ourselves. And, we are reminded that ~ even there ~ God goes there and meets us.  

The tendency we might have in finishing that phrase of “God meets us there”, is to finish it with the term “defeats death”. That God goes there and defeats death, that God comes upon death with even greater power and tramples it, sleighs it, defeats it like a mighty warrior. But that does not really seem sufficient; that is not the nature of God. God is presence, God is with us…Emmanuel…God meets us…God meet us, even in the darkness; God meets us, even in the ugliness of our human condition; God takes it all in ~ upon Godself…and God transforms death through Jesus’ actions this day.   I think what we will discover, for those of us brave enough to come to Golgotha’s Goof Friday, is that God’s action is not to explain the suffering that is present in our lives, or in our world…not to defeat the death and suffering like a mighty warrior battling a mythical dragon…but rather, God’s action is to fully meet us here…in our pain…in our suffering…in the death. God’s actions today allows a complete transformation that arrives with the sonrise of an Easter morning, the likes of which the world has never known.    

Many allusions to the transformation of the caterpillar to the butterfly have been made to Easter story. And they are fitting, in some ways. Does the caterpillar die in order for the butterfly to later emerge? Or does the caterpillar transform into a new reality that can…fly?   And so, we go back 2 millennia to a story that has been told and re-told through the generations. Told and retold because it is, perhaps, even more relevant today than it ever was. Come with your questions…and find answers; come with ALL of who you are…and see that God is there; come with the darkness of your humanity…and see that God is there; come with your mistakes, with your sin, with the ugly parts of your living…and see that (even there) God meets us…in this story of…LIFE.  

Good Friday Readings to follow the opening reflection:   ·        

“The Betrayal” ~ John 18: 1-5   ·        

“Acceptance” ~ John 18: 5b – 11   ·        

“Abandonment” ~ John 18: 15-18, 25-27    ·        

“Choosing Kingdoms” ~ John 18: 33 – 38     ·        

“We All Guilty” ~ John 18:38b – 19:6    ·        

“We go to the tomb” ~ John 19: 38-42