By the Rev. David Olson
As I drop my head, my eyes squeeze shut. I hold them closed for a good amount of time, not ready to open them back up. Eventually I know I must and so slowly I raise my head and open my eyes…but the picture is still there. It’s of a pregnant Ukrainian woman on a stretcher. She is being rushed to get help after Russian forces bombed the maternity hospital where she was to give birth. Later I learned it was too late. She died, along with the child inside of her.
Again I drop my head, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. It feels normal, this strange ritual I do. It is something I have repeated so often over the last couple of years as I have watched, read, and listened to endless stories about Covid deaths, violence and anger, suffering, pain and struggle in our broken world. But try as I might, I can’t hide. I can’t just close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. Even if I do I know the suffering and death are always there just beyond the darkness.
In just a few short weeks we will be in the midst of Holy Week, and I can’t help but wonder if Mary the mother of Jesus dropped her head and squeezed her eyes shut that Good Friday, not wanting to see Jesus suffer and die as he hung on the cross. I feel like I would understand if she did.
As Christians the hard truth is that we live in a Good Friday world. What Jesus endured and experienced on the cross that Good Friday sadly portrays exactly the world we live in. It is a thought that can be almost overwhelming.
And yet there is more to this story because, as the writer Barbara Johnson puts it, though we might live in a Good Friday world, we are “Easter people living in a Good Friday world.”
This means we may live in a world full of brokenness, suffering, pain and death—a world that looks and feels a lot like Good Friday—but we are people of Easter. We are people of the resurrection, who live after the time when death came to claim Jesus as the ultimate victim, and the unexpected happened. Jesus claimed death, and death’s finality is fully overcome through the cross and the empty tomb.
In days such as these, when we want to drop our heads and close our eyes to block out what we see, we are reminded again that death does not have the last word. Pain and suffering and the violence of war do not have the last word—not for the woman and her unborn child on that stretcher in the Ukraine, and not for any of us.
God has the last word. And so now, maybe especially now, with full hearts we can raise our heads and we can open our eyes—not because there aren’t hard things to see, there are, but because Easter is coming. At Easter we celebrate new life and hope, in an empty tomb and a resurrected Savior given to us by our God whose love carries us beyond all that would seek to hurt us and take our lives.
We are Easter people. And not even a Good Friday world can change that.