Endings are difficult, there is no doubt about it. I’ve never known anything to end without some kind of pain. Relationships come to an end, and it hurts. A job ends, and it is sad. Your favorite television show comes to an end, and tears are shed. Life comes to an end, and those who are left behind grieve. Vacations come to an end, and you immediately need another one. Endings are difficult, and so we often do the best we can to avoid them, hoping that the need for yet another end might somehow go away.
Of course, we all know that endings cannot be avoided. It is an inevitability of time that things will come to their culmination. Despite our natural discomfort with endings, every year, the Church invites us to pause for a few moments to remember one ending in particular. On this Friday we call Good, we gather to mark the end of the life of Jesus Christ. It hasn’t been all that long since we gathered to celebrate his birth. It was just a few short months ago when we gave thanks for his baptism and the beginning of his ministry. Over the past dozen or so Sundays, we’ve heard, with growing excitement and anticipation, Mark’s account of Jesus’ expanding ministry of healing, exorcism, preaching, and teaching.
Like the disciples, it would be easy for us to hope that the work of Jesus might go on forever. I know I have those days where I’m certain that everything would be a whole lot better if Jesus was still walking among us. Ultimately, however, Jesus didn’t come to preach or to heal, but he came to save, and today, as we remember the end of his life, we also celebrate the beginning of our salvation. Without the cross, without Jesus’ death, without the blood and water poured out, there would be no reason to call this day Good, but it is precisely in the ending that eternal life begins.
Without the ending that happens on Good Friday, there is no new beginning on Easter Day. It is a natural human reaction to want to skip ahead, to pass over Good Friday and jump right to Easter, but that would be unwise. Without death, there is no resurrection. Without contemplating on these mighty acts, the empty tomb makes no sense. Without a body to prepare for burial, there is no reason for the women to rise early on Sunday morning and encounter the risen Lord. And so, we must take a moment to pause and to reflect on the gift that was given to us in this ending. We mourn the role we have played in making it happen. We repent and ask God to help us make a new beginning. And, above all, we wait. We wait and watch as during these three days, God took the work of salvation from a specific time and a specific place and wrote it across all of history. In the death of Jesus, the bonds of sin were broken, not just for his disciples, but for all humanity throughout all ages. It was the perfect ending, which brings about the perfect beginning of grace poured out for all.
During these next few days, I invite you to take some time to give thanks for the endings that bring about new beginnings. Give thanks for moments of sorrow that bring about opportunities for joy. Give thanks for the death of Jesus, in which we are raised to life eternal. Amen.