With that, all the disciples deserted Jesus and fled. – Mark 14.50
What do you do when your world is blown apart?
I’ve been immersed in Good Friday this week, preparing for our Good Friday service. I’ve read multiple versions of the scripture accounts of that day, pondered it all, crafted some of my thoughts into a reflection for the service, and still I keep thinking about it.
Not so much about what Jesus must have thought and felt. I don’t think I have the capacity to imagine life from his perspective. To become an itinerant preacher with a revolutionary message. To draw a core of disciples to follow him. To take his message to Jerusalem, to the seat of Power, and to confront that Power in the full knowledge of what would happen next. I can’t even begin to empathize with what Jesus did.
But I can empathize with the disciples. I can imagine being captivated by the Teacher, and giving up a humdrum life to follow him. Listening to his lessons, and consistently missing the point. Arguing about greatness when I should be learning about servanthood. And then seeing my worst fears become reality with the arrest and execution of Jesus. To run away and hide, too afraid to do anything else.
And I keep thinking about those students from Parkland, Florida. Can anyone who hasn’t been in a similar situation imagine what it’s like to be in school when a shooter starts shooting? To see or hear friends and teachers die? To know that any second literally could be your last? And then to return to that scene a few days later with expectations that you resume your education?
I can empathize with students who refuse to return to school, to want to run and keep running. But at first I thought I couldn’t understand the leaders who have emerged, started the #NeverAgain movement, and helped organize the March For Our Lives. Could I do what they are doing? Take on the NRA and our national cult of gun worship? Keep going even when powerful people make fun of you and tell you to shut up?
But actually, I can imagine, at least a little, what their lives are like. I remember what it was like to grow up gay in a place where no one, including me, knew what that was. I remember coming out to family members who poured their anger on me, who saw my anguish only as an affront to themselves. I remember telling the first person who threatened to “out” me at work to go to hell. I remember hearing about “gay cancer,” and doing everything I could to help care for my dying friends and neighbors. I remember working harder than anyone else in my department, for less pay (no family to support, after all), because I believed that any day could be my last day of employment.
And I remember when things got better. When estranged relatives became friendly again. When I met other gay people at work who were not fired, but promoted and trusted with greater responsibilities, and having the same thing happen to me. When the nightmare that is AIDS didn’t go away, but did become transformed into a chronic condition.
That’s what I hope and pray will happen for those kids from Parkland, and to survivors of school shootings across our country. I pray that they continue to face their fears instead of running from them, to call BS on a broken system that claims nothing can be done, and to see changes happen, even if things happen too slowly. To live to see a day when common-sense restrictions of our gun culture become the law of the land.
And here I am back to Jerusalem, in those days right after Good Friday. The disciples ran, but they didn’t keep running. They came together, first in fear, then in unbelief, and finally in belief, to support each other and carry forward the message of their Teacher.
Good Friday, like any calamity, could have been the beginning of the end for the followers of Jesus. But instead, they made it the end of the beginning.
What’s next for us?