On this day of all days, Good Friday, the danger of being a ‘professional’ pastor is most acute. Like a doctor who is gravely sick, but never takes the medicine she prescribes for others, we can preach, pray, read and sing today, but always with one eye on the clock to make sure it all runs to time. We don’t pay attention to ourselves.
We too need Good Friday.
So my best advice is to take it slow. Travelling through Good Friday for many years has taught me that here, even more than usual, the gospel writers are on our side. Every scene, every contrast, every sentence will crack open to reveal the great truth. Take something you’ve never noticed before, and dwell on it for a season.
For example, here’s a phrase that hit me between the eyes just last night: ‘That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies’ (Luke 23:12). Now isn’t that the most astonishing irony. I’m sure you’ve preached many times that Jesus’ death produced unity where there was division, and friendship between Jew and gentile. Wouldn’t you love that phrase to be one about gospel fruit? But of course it’s the enemy’s bitter fruit, the anti-gospel, in hideous clarity.
Jew and Gentile united in new friendship, not as a result of Jesus’ death, but to produce it.
Truly, we all were/are among those planning Jesus’ death.
Preach it, but preach it to yourself first.