Running starkers! That's what he was doing. Running into the night without his pyjamas. It was Good Friday or at least it was a day long ago and in the dead of night before the day we now call Good Friday had dawned. He would never forget this. It terrified him and it would be impressed upon his memory, even upon his sub-conscious, for the rest of his life. This self-appointed band of thugs had arrived to arrest the Teacher, his Teacher, and take Him away. Somehow all the older men had fled in terror, and he was left there standing with the Teacher and that was when they tried to take hold of him, too.
Grabbing a small boy in his pyjamas is not easy, especially if he is wriggling vigorously and trying to get away. But this was no game. This was a night of terror and the lad wrested himself free and ran. Ran for his dear life. What else could he have done? But his struggle had earned him a whack on his hand. His fingers ached, and Stumpy Fingers was his nick-name ever after.
I don't know about you, but this story helps me gain perspective on this Good Friday. It is a holiday which has lost its bearings; it is a holiday which seems poised to become even more troublesome and bizarre. Maybe it's not as bad as it could be. Maybe it is not only some Bacchanalian feast to gouge ourselves on sea-food, wine with hot-cross buns for pious afters. But it is a day when, it seems, there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of running, running to and fro, and maybe also running away, running away from history, running away from who we are, running away from the story of Jesus' arrest and trial.
I somehow feel that the band of thugs that came to hi-jack this Man, would have happily observed a Good Friday holiday if it could serve as a pious cover for their evil deed. After all, had they not already celebrated the Passover in their own homes earlier that evening? And then they gathered with clubs, swords and spears. So here they were - using the cover of night - to get the One who disturbed their consciences so deeply, the Man the wife of the Roman Governor would describe as "righteous". She evidently knew that He had been hi-jacked.
Our public "western" Good Friday seems to be a celebration not unlike the commercial Christmas we now inherit. Then, regular as clockwork, year after year (how many shopping days left?), we are enjoined to "get away from it all", to sate our appetites with anything but fasting, and then of course to make a donation to the charity of our choice. And that's not a bad thing to do, since the biblical Christmas story ironically tells us about that asylum seeker family who were forced to leave the land which had been divinely given to their ancestors so they could prepare for Israel's saviour!
So what about our all too hot-cross bunned Good Friday? What are we to think about this day, transformed as it is (at least in this Australian state) as a special day when massive money-raising events, garnered with the smiles of 1001 celebrities, encourage us to dig deeply for the Childrens' Hospital? I'm sure Melbourne is not the only place where Good Friday becomes the public holiday on which good money raising events are held to re-finance the institutions that serve such common good as providing hospital care for children with broken bodies and lives.
So let's look carefully at what this tangled day of contradiction has come to mean. In its institutional adjustment to our commercialised way of life we confront a regular organized appeal to the consciences of people not only to think of children, but to think of children battling sickness, disease and broken bodies. And how can we knock that? It's the old story Jesus told of the wheat and the weeds once again. Those who truly listen to Jesus, and who want to be part of His story, will indeed "think of children". To follow Jesus is indeed to have our lives set on being supportive to children battling illness, brokenness, abuse, family breakdown and whatever else serves to crimp their lives from being what God created them to be! Whatever else - yes even if that means opposing the rule of the underlying commercialism and consumerism that seem now to be corporate spiritual sponsors of our Good Fridays.
Jesus' call "let the children come to me!" rings out loud and clear, and I dare say it is a special clarion call on any Good Friday precisely because of what had happened back when that lad ran off starkers without his pj's. Why do I say that?
That event is not included in the story of Jesus' hi-jacking, trial, crucifixion and resurrection as a bit of light relief so that you will keep on reading and come to the happy ending so that we can all live happily ever after.
Not at all! That event is included by Mark to tell the reader that he knows what he is talking about in his gospel because he was there. He may have been there as a young lad, he may have been there as a minor whose word would carry no weight in a Jewish, let alone Roman, court. But he was there. And despite the trauma, despite what was quite conceivably the event which led to his post-traumatic stress later on, God used him, a boy who had lost his pyjama's, to tell us the meaning of Good Friday.
And so we can dig deep. We can afford to dig deep. Because this story of the boy who ran starkers through the olive groves tells us that God Almighty was in Christ Jesus digging deep into our lives. By digging deep into our lives, He turns us around to live to encourage children, so they can come to know about Jesus. The message is plain. It is for children
traumatised children the world over, including children, our children, who have been ruthlessly hijacked by the libertarian madness of free market commercialism
that the Kingdom of God has come.
Somehow, we have to learn to be citizens of the Kingdom of God in this respect and thereby build societies that reach out to in love and justice to the children of the generations that come after us. And we can even start on this Good Friday.
Nurturing Justice is written by Bruce Wearne, Point Lonsdale, to encourage a sustained Christian political contribution by seeking justice in the gentle and merciful rule of Jesus Christ, the ruler over all of the earth's political regimes.
March 2010 © The contents of this email are copyright. Documents may be photocopied or retransmitted in their entirety but not otherwise reprinted or transmitted without permission. "Nurturing Justice" is a project to encourage Christian political reflection based upon wise and loving civic participation. Comments are welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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