Several years ago I served at a church outside Grand Rapids while completing my MDiv program. During Easter 2008 one dear soul, Ray Minema, stunned us all by rewriting and reading the Passion narrative of the Gospels in his own words.
Ray was an 88 year old Dutch man who immigrated to the United States after World War II. During the War, Ray was involved in the Dutch underground resistance movement to free Jews from the evil, systematic slaughter of the Nazis. In fact, Ray knew Corrie Ten Boom, the famous Jewish refugee organizer who later wrote an autobiography on her anti-Nazi efforts called The Hiding Place. Ray has seen the face of evil and death in ways I can only touch at movie length.
Here is a guy who nearly tasted death himself, and certainly smelled the sulfuric stench of evil wafting through the countryside of his beloved country, yet still continues to passionately pursue “the loving, gentle, caring Jesus” as Savior and Lord. So when this man spoke about the words of the most ironic event of the history of the world—God sacrificing himself for humanity—I listened.
I am reminded of his retelling today, Good Friday. And I can think of no better way to retell the moments leading up to the event of the cross, than through the eyes of this dear soul. His words add a distinctive weight and texture to the Passion narrative.
This is the account of the last 24 hours of the loving, gentle, caring Jesus and event of the cross, combined with the Aslan sacrifice scene from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I hope this mashup provides a point of meditation for you on this Good Friday.
Here are the words of Ray’s retelling:
and healing Preacher was worried and sorrowful.
After celebrating the Passover with His friends, they went out of the city unto the Mount of Olives into the Garden of Gethsemane. It was already early evening and actually time to retire, but Jesus told His friends to take a rest and He went on alone in that peaceful garden.
But Jesus felt no peace and prayed and pleaded with God His Father: “If it is at all possible take this cup away from me! But not my will but yours be done.”
And God the Father heard His beloved Son’s cry for help and sent an angel from heaven to comfort and encourage Jesus. Then Jesus went back to His friends and found them sleeping, unaware of the tragedy that was happening around them. Another sorrow for Jesus.
“Why could you not watch with Me, just for a little while?”
Jesus went away alone again and prayed for the safety of His friends. He knew what was going to happen that evening and the next day, and that their enemies were near while His friends were sleeping. At the same time a band of soldiers and high priest servants led by Judas had surrounded them, and Jesus was taken away to the chambers of the High Priest. There a gathering of hateful Pharisees were waiting for the captive Jesus. Another great sorrow for the loving, gentle, caring Jesus.
Jesus did not talk back at the false accusations except when the High Priest asked Him, “Do you claim to be the Son of God?”
“Yes,” Jesus answered, “you’re looking at Him!”
That was enough for them to condemn Jesus to death.
The next morning a Roman guard command took Jesus to the court of Pilate. After questioning Jesus, Pilate found no fault worthy of a death sentence. He had Jesus flogged and tortured with a crown of thorns pushed on His head. But the fanatic, hateful screaming crowd in front of Pilate’s courts, threatening vengeance, made Pilate give in. He washed his hands in innocence and asked them what they wanted done with Jesus.”
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
The loving, gentle, caring Jesus was pushed to carry His heavy, rugged cross onto Golgotha and there Jesus was laid down on His cross, His arms stretched and held by the soldiers, while the iron spikes were hammered into and thru His hands and feet into the rugged cross. Then the cross was put upright with Jesus hanging from His torn hands and feet.
The loving, gentle, caring Jesus never complained or asked for mercy. He only prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
And the man next to Jesus was saved by grace. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus seeing His mother with His friend John told them to be like mother and son.
Suddenly it became dark, very, very dark and silent. And then Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, my Father, why have you forsaken me? Why Father? Why Father, where are you? Why?”
and for me.