Today is Good Friday. Last night, I was sitting in church with family members I love listening to music my husband loves: The Seven Last Words of Christ by composer Richard Burchard. We had come to hear the performance because a friend of ours was singing in the choir.
It was a small sanctuary with big sound. The acoustics made every note rich and full. An orchestra of strings sat on the stage in the middle, and several dozen choir members filed in and stood behind and around them.
The program began with Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of my favorite pieces of music and one that has been used for the funerals of many famous people. It was a fitting choice to start the evening.
To me, when Barber’s music builds to the climax, it’s as if heaven opens up and the gates are thrown wide to welcome the Lord’s own.
So, as I listened to that, I was moved already.
Then Burchard’s work began, each movement focused on a different phrase in the Bible that Jesus uttered in his final hours. The strings lifted up with the voices, intertwining with them, holding the notes, carrying the words of the precious Savior.
The sound filled the room, surrounding us, at times lifting my spirit with it.
I wondered, what must it have been like for Jesus? He had come to save the world but not with a rebellion as many people expected. Rather, the way of salvation is the way of the cross, the way of the suffering Christ.
His body was torn, unrecognizable. His blood poured out on the ground. Blood that was worthless to the accusers and abusers but priceless to those who are saved by it.
His Spirit was heavy with grief. With the weight of the world on him, he struggled to breathe. Every word, every utterance required some of the precious little strength he had.
He must have wanted to give up the struggle. Yet, in his final moments his focus, as always, was on others. Regardless of the effort it took, he spoke aloud several times: to ask God to forgive those who crucified him, to grant salvation to a thief who hung beside him, and to ensure that his mother would be taken care of when he was gone.
Then in the powerful movement, “The Fourth Word”, he asks the heartbreaking question, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He must have felt utterly alone. The few friends who had not abandoned him could not know—and neither can we—the depth of spiritual suffering he experienced in this moment. His holy, righteous, pure Father had to turn away because of the sin that Jesus now carried: not his own sin (he had none) but the world’s sin.
As I listened to the music and pictured Jesus saying each phrase, I gave thanks for the love of a great God who would make a way for salvation for anyone who wants it.
As horrible as it was, I’m grateful for Good Friday because without it, there would be no Easter.
Friday was devastating. Sunday will be amazing.
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