Lent - April 2, 2021 - Good Friday

By Rev. Rick Spleth - Friday April 2, 2021


This devotion is the written accompaniment to a video Lenten message that can be viewed on our YouTube Channel by clicking HERE.


Rick Spleth

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. Luke 23:34

I have had the occasion several times over the years to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  This massive church dates from the 4th century and is built over the site that is believed to be Calvary, or Golgotha, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and the tomb where his body was laid to rest.  It is a very ornate building with a Medieval décor, filled with great hanging lamps and burning candles.  Today it looks nothing like the place, outside the city walls, where Jesus was led to his death.  If you go there you have to use your imagination to make the place fit the narrative of Jesus’ final day we read about in the Gospels, the day we call Good Friday.

Good Friday always involves imagination.  It does not make sense to his disciples then or now that Jesus should die.  His arrest and trial seem clearly a sham that is overlaid by political maneuvering and gamesmanship. Jesus is mocked, abused, and taunted by his captors.  But if the “last words” he spoke are close to the ones recorded in the scriptures, somehow he mustered an inner peace and strength that empowered him, even as his life came to an end.

4-2 Spleth BStanding in the middle of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with pilgrims from around the world it is a little hard to picture it. One odd thing helps make it real.  The church today is the shared property of a variety of groups:  the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Armenian Christians, Coptic Christians, Syriac Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox.  No one of those groups may alter the property in any way without the consent of all the others. Agreement is often elusive.  To preserve the peace the key to the building for the last 800 years has been entrusted to a Muslim family.

The Bible says there was squabbling at the foot of the cross, a struggle for Jesus’ belongings, and the abandonment of many of his followers who were filled with fear. Sadly, that discord is lived out today in real time by his later day followers who struggle to get along in the church built at the place he died.  And, sadly, in churches erected in his name all around the globe.  If you use your imagination you can hear Jesus’ final words echoing through the centuries, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Prayer—Forgive us God for the friction we perpetuate in the name of Jesus with sisters and brothers who you have created and love. Grant us the will and ability to foster peace.


Rev. Richard L. Spleth

Visiting Regional Minister



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