A Good Friday for Failures

As I ran laps in my local park a couple of days ago, I saw the usual assortment of people—friends exercising together while they talked, parents corralling kids, and others running as I did (but faster and with less wheezing).

Darting around walkers going in the same direction is a common occurrence. Not a problem—it’s a public park, so we have to share the path.

But as I neared the finish line on my final lap, I encountered the more frustrating obstacle: someone walking towards me on the wrong side of the path who didn’t look like she planned to move.

Irritation flashed through me. How stupid can you be not to realize everyone else is walking on the left? I dodged her in a huff, hoping she’d see my subtle eye roll and move to the other side. Probably too selfish to even notice.

The scene lasted only seconds, but the tension in my body and mind lingered. That’s all it took—a minor, fleeting irritation, and ugly thoughts ate away at my joy like acid.

Different Instinct

Only an hour or two earlier, I’d sat out on my back deck with my Bible open to John 19. Seeing it as fitting for Holy Week, I read the familiar account of Jesus’s crucifixion. I noticed, as I had many times before, Jesus’s kindness towards his mother. Amid his agony, he makes sure Mary will be provided for.

But I’d never thought much about John, the one Jesus entrusts his mother to. The one who had, hours earlier, abandoned Jesus as he was arrested, fleeing to save himself (Matt. 26:31, 56). The one who hadn’t stepped in to try to prevent the soldiers putting Jesus on that cross.

Imagine how devastating it would’ve been for John not only to see Jesus’s crucifixion but to then be seen by him. To make eye contact with the friend you’d betrayed while he endured the suffering you’d done nothing to prevent.

What did John expect in that moment? Did he think he’d get anger from Jesus? Judgment? Disappointment, at least?

Not from this Saviour. Instead, Jesus dignified John with a display of trust. In response to the Pharisees, Jesus had once repeated the Old Testament command to “Honor your father and mother” (Matt. 15:4). Now, he lived that out himself by giving John charge of his mother. He treated him like a brother, not a traitor.

While bearing the punishment deserved by sinners like John, Jesus looked out on the crowd—on his disciple, on his mother, and on the other women there—with gentleness and mercy. The torment of his body didn’t poison his heart. Love came naturally.

No Easy Lesson

I’m ashamed of the order of these two scenes. Writing this article would have been easier if I’d run first and read second. It’d make a neat lesson: I got angry, and then I changed after reading the Bible. I could pretend, at least until I went to the park again, that I was all fixed.

But there’s no tidy resolution here. I’d genuinely marvelled at Jesus’s gentleness, then laced up my shoes and ran out with a heart so full of selfishness that it spilled over at the slightest provocation.

All I can do is come back to John 19 again—come back to Jesus. When I lock eyes with him, I’ll find mercy there as John did. I’m not like Jesus, so he became like me. He came into this world as a frail human, able to be betrayed and killed. He took my sins to that cross and said aloud, so it’d be repeated through the millennia, “It is finished” (v. 30). Seeing his grace didn’t change me instantly, but it’s the only way I’ll ever change.

I’ll never stop needing this Good Friday scene. Under the lightest pressure—a stitch in my side and an oblivious person in my path—my instinctive response was anger and judgment. Under the crushing pressure of physical agony and sin-bearing, Jesus’s instinctive response was grace and compassion.

What a difference. Hallelujah, what a Saviour.

1 Comments

  1. Justin Morris March 30, 2024 at 9:23 pm

    Our selfish sin is no joke, but your park encounter made me chuckle. You see, five years ago, I had a violent crash on my bicycle, which (long story short) left me permanently and completely blind in one eye. Needless to say, I now have a heightened fear of crashing.
    Unrelated, I’ve been a Christian since my freshman year of college 38 years ago, and I’ve never uttered a curse word in all those years. My family and friends find that remarkable.
    But a couple years ago I was riding on a municipal path and came around a turn to see groundskeeper in the middle of the path, about 50 feet ahead. We locked eyes and I thought surely he’s going to step off the path. But of course he didn’t, so I had to dramatically veer into the grass – on half inch tires that are distintly not intended for riding in grass. As I rode by in a panic, I yelled to him, “Get out of the way dumba**.”
    The one and only time I’ve ever cursed. And a nice blow to my pride and self-righteousness.
    So I sympathize with your plight in the park; and though it makes me chuckle, it reminds me of Jesus’ great kindness toward John and toward us. Grace and Peace!

    Reply

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