“And it was about the 6th hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the 9th hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.’ And having said this, He breathed His last.” Luke 23:44-46(NKJV)
Editorial Note: Over the last 14 years of writing these, this is one of my favorite to share. At the conclusion, enjoy Mississippi native Leontyne Price singing “Were You There?”
When my daughter was in the 5th grade she and I made our way to spend Easter Weekend with dear friends in Winchester, Virginia. It was a long drive. We were on no set schedule so we left the interstate a few times to see the communities interstates invite a driver to speed right by.
On Good Friday we left the interstate minutes after we crossed the Tennessee/Virginia state line. As we drove through one of the towns we approached a church whose sign announced a Good Friday Service at noon. “Daddy, we are here just in time! It’s 11:50. We have to go in.” We did just that. On the way in from the parking lot we walked by one fine Harley Davison motorcycle. When we entered the fairly small sanctuary there were about two dozen of us there. A few rows in front of us sat a guy who looked to be about 60, one of the roughest, biggest, most tattooed guys I’d ever seen. He looked like he belonged to a motor cycle gang.
The service was nothing more than praying the “Stations of the Cross,” so I knew we’d be on our way in about 30 minutes. As we got to the portion in the Gospel story where Jesus fell a third time this gentleman began to cry quietly. When we got to the lines of the mallet striking the nails that pierced the hands and feet of Christ his cry became a little louder. As we were kneeling my daughter looked up to me and reached for my hand, clutching it tightly. When Christ was lifted in the air this guy wasn’t crying any more. He was wailing. Tears swelled in my daughter’s eyes. She whispered: “This was a really hard day for Jesus, wasn’t it Daddy?” I nodded in the affirmative as my eyes started leaking… (You know real men don’t cry. Ha!). As we were into those last three Stations, the wailing continued. The man’s shoulders were now shaking as he wailed. He just couldn’t stop crying. By now even the priest began to tear up. The whole room was in tears. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Before we knew it, the service was over.
At its conclusion this precious child of God went up to this biker dude(also precious in His sight) and patted him on his arm as she looked up, said something to him and gave him a hug. He was clearly touched. This huge man gave her a big bear hug, lifting her up off the floor for a moment. I heard him say: “Thank you. Thank you so much. You’re absolutely right.” Aside from that conversation we all did as instructed, leaving quietly, got back in the car and left for the interstate again. After a few minutes I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ask. “Sweetheart, what did you tell that man?” Her reply: “It was simple, Daddy. I told him it would be all better on Sunday.”
As you may struggle through Holy Week, as I often do, remember: Sunday, Sunday, oh glorious Sunday, for Christ our King lives again.
Tending the vineyard, Tom Welch