Last Saturday, I walked around all day feeling like I was forgetting something. Was I supposed to be on a Zoom call? Was it someone’s birthday? Was I just uncomfortable about having a Saturday with nothing to do? I realize that I’m not the only person whose schedule was decimated, and then rebuilt, due to COVID-19. But I couldn’t shake the “You’re not remembering something important” feeling.
Later that evening, I checked my social media and saw it! A friend shared a picture of Dr. King with a post that read, “Before the clock strikes midnight let us never forget – Martin Luther King Jr, January 15, 1929- April 4th, 1968”
Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN at the Lorraine Motel on April 4th, 1968. The night before he was killed, he gave a sermon where he acknowledged his life may be coming to an end, “I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will….I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
There’s a photo of Dr. King and three other civil rights leaders, out on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. You could tell they were good friends. They look like they had weathered many storms together. They look like they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They look like they laughed a lot with each other. They look like they belong right there, to the moment, to the cause, to one another. That image has stayed with me. Only moments later, Dr. King was taken from them, right where they stood. I’m still heartbroken for Dr. King’s friends.
The night that Jesus was betrayed, he was surrounded by his friends. They knew each other. They saw the miracles with their own eyes and heard the stories with their own ears. They broke bread together. They drank wine together. They washed each other’s feet. Jesus prayed with them and told them all the things!
They walked into a garden and moments later, Jesus was taken from them. He was arrested. These men had been following Jesus, learning from Jesus, living and walking with Jesus, every day for three years and suddenly, he was gone. They would have no access to him and absolutely no control over what would come next for him. From here on out, the story moves at a breakneck pace towards the cross. And even as the reader, I’m desperate to slow it down enough to find another way, possibly even another ending. But there is none.
Darkness and despair are coming. The journey from the garden, to the high priests and the Roman palace, to the cross, and ultimately, to Jesus’ death is lonely and unrelenting.
As he hung on the cross, Jesus saw his mother close by. Then he saw “the disciple he loved” nearby as well. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to his disciple, “Here is your mother.” Jesus wasn’t looking for someone to take care of his mother or someone to cook and clean for his friend.
He was calling them into relationship with one another, specifically as mother and son. It wasn’t an introduction. It was an invitation into the deepest category of relationship. A revelatory reminder that we are all connected at the deepest levels, both socially and biologically.
Jesus’ mother and the disciple he loved were not spared the grief or pain of that dark time. But their new understanding of family and community ensured they would not endure it alone.
We need each other in our grief and sorrow, our pain and our loneliness. We need each other now, more than ever, on this Good Friday, when social distancing is probably just a vivid incarnation of the relational distance we often feel with our loved ones, or our neighbors, or even with God.
Let us remember Jesus’ invitation to a deeper connection with one another in the midst of the darkness. Whether we’re 6 feet apart or 600 miles apart, we are inextricably linked. We need each other. To whom are you being called into relationship today?