Good Friday

From April 22, 2011

…What does it mean to go “all in?”

In his Pulitzer Prize winning novel Michael Shaara writes of the Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee, on the last day of Gettysburg, speaking to his trusted friend General Longstreet.  It is early in the morning, the fields are quiet, and as the two ride together Lee in his soft, dignified voice makes clear that, to be a good officer, a man must love the army above and beyond any other earthly thing.

That’s difficult, Lee explains, because in battle an officer may be forced to order the death of that one thing he loves the most.

“We expect an occasional empty chair, a toast to dear departed comrades,” Lee says, “We are prepared to lose some of us … but never ALL of us. Surely not all of us. But…that is the trap. You can hold nothing back … you must commit yourself totally.”

“That is one reason why there are so very few good officers.  Although there are many good men.”[1]

What Lee was stressing to Longstreet was that on this day Lee was requiring of him to go “all in; ” Lee couldn’t afford to have anything held back.  Reason and logic would provide no comfort, and no explanation.

The crucifixion scene on Golgotha comes down to this:  Here is God going all in, holding nothing back.  At the Baptism and again at the Transfiguration, the voice of God is heard declaring, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and there is no earthly rationalization or logic that would make sense out of this day’s scenario, the same Son of God suffering and dying on a cross, so that the human race which placed him there might receive salvation.

For the apostles, the loss is more personal than any of us can imagine.  Jesus told his followers it was important to work while there is light, because the light would not be with them always.  The clear, brilliant wisdom of Jesus when he debated the Pharisees, the parables he told, simple and yet complex; the miraculous moments, the incredible healings and walking on water; the smiles for children and the human fellowship with the Son of God – for the apostles, it is all gone.  Christ’s earthly ministry is complete, finished.

Judas and Peter feel the guilt and loss – Judas is unable to deal with his life and commits suicide.  Peter weeps, disgraced and ashamed, but he will come back with resolve to serve.  All of the apostles, all of them who earlier had seen Jesus slip away from the murderous crowds in the Temple and who must have thought that somehow it would not really end this way, all of them will feel that sickening weight of guilt and loss in the pit of their stomach.  They will feel as a child might after having lost a balloon at the county fair – a balloon they wanted so badly, a balloon purchased and given to them at no cost – so beautiful and light and cherished so much – but with just an instant’s distraction it slips loose and floats out of grasp, and the child, turning back, realizing that all the admonitions have come true, that the thing most beautiful and wonderful and cherished is gone, floating away, and they are helpless to bring it back ever again…

[1]Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels  (Philadelphia, PA: David McKay Publishing 1974)