Good Friday Reflection: A Face in The Crowd

Not at the foot but near enough the cross I stand, close enough to say I am.

One foot in, one foot away. I take my place as witness on this hill called Golgatha, the place of the skull.

Not a full five days ago, I stood in another crowd, hearing the Hosanna echo off the cobblestones. And now? How quick a prayer for help turns to a cry to crucify.

This one that now hangs before us, arrested, betrayed by one of his own and then brought before Pilate, a judge without justice, quick to wash his hands without knowing his soul would carry the mark. The Kingdom of Rome vs. the Kingdom of God incarnate in this Jesus, the Messiah. And his reply “No violence”, says he, “not even to release or save me”. [1]

No power that necessitates violence will hold its empire. And on this hill, on this cross, the Kingdom of God, impervious to threats, shines as a beacon to the world.

Photo of Cross and hillside

A beacon to these Roman soldiers looking on with apathy, just doing their job, keeping control of the spectacle.

A beacon to this family holding a line between sorrow and unbelief, wondering how things came undone.

A beacon to these leaders here, if you can call them that, smug and snide in their belief they had gotten their way, their presence adding insult to injury.

A beacon to these thieves that hang here in agony as the reality of death by crucifixion was worse than even they had anticipated. One, hurling insults, one seeking hope in the act of repentance.

This death, foretold but brought into reality by mob violence, unfolds as powerful testimony of God’s gracious pursuit of humanity.

The sky turns black and in his final breath  “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani” (Lama Sabaktani) is the cry that will echo  down through the generations of men and women whose humanity was not valued or considered, except by a Savior who knew their fingerprints before their names were ever uttered.

This death, while reconciling us back to life, is an indictment of an entire society that sanctions and even seems to celebrate the death of an unarmed brown man.

I hold in my heart a quick tendency to point fingers and the knowledge that I am at least in part to blame.

All we who gather here, are witnesses to testify of a compassion revealed in the broken body of this crucified one, a body broken to give hope to all broken bodies of this world: relief to those who suffer, freedom to those oppressed, sustenance to the hungry and thirsty, welcome to the exiled and the refugee, and refuge to all who live in fear in this city, in this world.

Not at the foot but near enough the cross I stand, close enough to say I am.

Written by Jessica Maudlin Phelps as part of a Good Friday service, “No Cross, No Crown”  The crucifixion as told from the perspective of several witnesses.

[1] John 18:36



One Response to “Good Friday Reflection: A Face in The Crowd”

  1. Gary Simpson

    Thank you, Jessica, for a masterfully crafted Good Friday reflection. Well done!


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