How It Was Supposed to Go (Good Friday Sermon)

I was asked by the priest at my church to preach the sermon at our Good Friday service this year, and I thought I should share it here as well. You can watch the recording on youtube or read the full text below:


Growing up I would often imagine myself as a direct disciple of Jesus. One of the many women who traveled with him, ate with him, learned from him. One of the many women who sat at the foot of the cross and watched him die.

Reading this story now, we have the gift of 2000 year hindsight. We know Easter is coming. We know this heavy darkness will only last a few days. We know what’s going to happen next. But they didn’t. They only knew what was supposed to happen. How it was supposed to go. And this was not how it was supposed to go.

I try to imagine the thoughts that would flood their minds right after his death, when everything had fallen apart and all was lost. He was supposed to save us. He was supposed to be the messiah, the chosen one, the king of kings. He was supposed to come to earth to tear down systems of oppression, not die by them. He was supposed to lead us out of the clutches of Rome, not get lost in legal and religious politicking. This was not how it was supposed to go.

He was supposed to lead the revolt. The revolution. He was supposed to fight for us, and instead he wouldn’t even fight for himself, or let us fight for him. He had so many loyal followers prepared to die for him and instead he just walked willingly into his arrest, into the hands of people he knew to be corrupt. What happened to the warrior that was supposed to overthrow all earthy powers? The one who was supposed to up-end it all, change it all? How can he have any effect on the world…when he’s dead? This was not how it was supposed to go.

He convinced us to abandon our homes and our families, to put down our work and chase him across the country gathering support. And he let it all go at the first real sign of opposition. How could he just give up like that? Not even defend himself in front of Pilate, a man who was clearly willing to let him go. The accusers had no real case. All Jesus had to do was fight and the fight would have been won. Our movement would still be alive and so would he. How could he betray the cause? How could he leave us so very, very alone.

This was not how it was supposed to go.

I’m finding myself even more sympathetic to these doubts, this anger, this sadness, than I was when I was younger. Last night I had a dream that I was back at Pike Place Market, volunteering to give tours to elementary school kids just like I’d been doing every week for the past 11 years. But the program was put on hold last March, and I suspect that it will never come back. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to all the people I’d come to know at the market, didn’t have the chance to tell them how much it all meant to me, couldn’t enjoy my final tour. This was not how it was supposed to go.

My freshman year of college I met two people that would remain my friends to this day. I was there, in person, the day they met, the day they got engaged, the day they got married. I waited 16 years for the day their first child would be born, knowing how much they both wanted to be parents. But I wasn’t there for the birth. Or the days, weeks, and months after. I wasn’t allowed to be. I still haven’t even gotten to hold him. I never got to go over to the house and offer to watch him so dad could shower or clean the kitchen so mom could feed him. He’ll celebrate his first birthday in two weeks, and I won’t be there for that either. This was not how it was supposed to go.

I watched my little cousin’s high school graduation on youtube. I’m still waiting on 5 postponed weddings, can’t hug 3 additional babies. I can’t work with half my clients. Couldn’t visit my friend when her grandma past away. My Aunt Betty died in the hospital without getting to hug her children goodbye. This was not how it was supposed to go.

There is nothing I can say to make it better or make it right. Nothing I can do to change what has already happened. Like a disciple of Jesus right after his death, all I can do right now is sit in my own sadness, my own disappointment, my own bitter resentment over that which is lost. That dark Friday was the worst day of their lives. If I’m lucky, this will have been the worst year of mine.

The women wept at the foot of the cross. They woke up the next morning to weep again. Eventually they went to the tomb to weep even more. And it is there, in their grief, that the resurrection is first witnessed. But that is a story for a different day. Today is Good Friday, and today we grieve. Because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for the sake of a plan we will never comprehend. Today we weep, because the way of salvation is a mystery, and God’s plan is always the way it must be, the way it will be. Even if it’s not the way it was supposed to be.