Here are some quotes that might prove helpful before approaching the cross to do reverence on Good Friday.
“I’m a Roman soldier, a gambler, I size things up, I calculate, lay bets. I’m not sure what all this means or who exactly this guy is or was. A lot of people think that this death’s not ordinary, that this person’s God. There’s definitely something special about him, that I know, so many people can’t be so stirred up about nothing.
“But is he God? Will this death save me? Should I hedge a bet on this? Should I reverence this cross? I don’t know, the dice seem to come out even. Pascal said it’s a good wager. After all, what have I got to lose by adoring? I’m not so convinced, but at these odds, free salvation, why not take the chance?”
“I’m Simon of Cyrene. You’ve heard of me, the perennial chore-boy, always at the wrong place at the wrong time, forced to help carry the cross, virtue by conscription! I’m not sure whether or not this man’s God; mostly I don’t care. It’s just that I’m yoked to his load and his suffering. It’s not something I choose.
“Should I adore? I don’t know. I don’t give it much thought one way or the other. I’m trying to make a living, to mind my own business. Sometimes this type of trouble falls upon you. That’s the way life is.”
“I’m the Bad Thief. I got crucified with him, had the same suffering, endured the same humiliation and abuse. But, I don’t agree with him. This isn’t useful, it’s just bad luck. There’s no God in heaven and there’s no love on earth either, just self-interest.
In the end, nobody gives a damn, nothing matters! A man’s got to take care of himself cause nobody else will, Jesus included! I’m not going to reverence this cross. I suffered as much as he did. To hell with it!”
“I’m Peter. I believe this man’s God. I know everything he said is true. But… I am always so scared, so timid. What I believe privately, I never live out in the world, I’ve neither the courage nor the strength.
”They call me ‘The Rock,’ what a joke! I’m taking a nap while he’s sweating blood, warming myself at a fire while he’s being scourged, and denying him even as he looks at me with love.
But that look on his face when he turned towards me after being scourged by Pilate… his face so soft, so understanding, not disappointed and hurt and me having just denied him! I know what unconditional love means. My mother, my father, my wife, nobody ever accepted me like he just did. I’ll adore, even if I have to do it in secret.”
“I’m Mary, his mother. Would I could take his place, but even here I’m helpless, like everywhere else. The incredible pain and helplessness of watching this! I can’t change anything, say anything, or do anything to make this better… All I can do is wait silently, here at the foot of this cross.”
“I’m the Good Thief. I’ve wasted my life, committed more than my share of sin. I wasn’t even looking for God and forgiveness, I was only looking out for myself, numero uno, like I always have! I got lucky!
“He found me, just before I died. Everything forgiven, washed clean, in a second. I still can’t believe it, but I’ll spend eternity celebrating it. Adore. Adore, this man! There is no great reckoning, no pound of punishment to be paid for each pound of sin. There’s only forgiveness, love. Give yourself over! Fall on the floor! Adore!”
“I’m John, his beloved Apostle. I feel awful…. his best friend, and yet, when he needs me the most, I run away, follow at a safe distance! Discipleship in safety, yes, that’s me! Not once did l speak up, challenge anyone, try to explain anything, or defend him. Timidity always my downfall!
“I know I’m not worthy of his friendship and forgiveness, yet I know he loves me, even more than before. How incredible that this godlessness, this hell, this black Friday is showing even more how scandalously lavish are his love and forgiveness! Looking at his face, leaning on his breast, I always believed that light, love and peace would triumph. Now I understand how. How unbelievable! I can only throw myself at the foot of his cross! Adore! Adore!”
“I’m Judas. I betrayed him. Betrayed Christ! For me there can be no hope. Too late, nothing can undo what’s done! Nothing can help me ever again! I’m sorry, so sorry, but there can only be darkness! I can only run away from this cross!”
These aren’t the separate comments of different biblical characters. No, they are feelings within different parts of each of us as we confront the drama of the cross.