Poetry (Good) Friday: Re-imagining victory

It is of course Good Friday, and like all my Jesus-following friends, I’m trying to live this day and the rest of the weekend particularly mindful of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and what that all means.

Exodus by Marc Chagall

I’m not really succeeding though. To say I am distracted is an understatement. Easter is late this year, so these sacred days are falling right when we are entering the final, insane march to the end of the school year — our days are jammed with activities and homework, medical checkups and ortho appointments, end-of-the year party planning and soccer tournaments.

I want to retreat, to find myself a quiet, anonymous corner somewhere and breathe. Pray. Ponder. Read and re-read the full story of redemption, trace my fingers across page after page of Israel’s story and find myself there too as we walk and wander and try to make sense of all that God reveals along the mystifying way of our oh-so-human journeys.

But I can’t.

My dear friend Stephanie assures me this is seasonal, par for the course of having young children and being faithful in the day-to-day life God has set before me. I’m thankful for that word of grace from her, and for now, it carries me.

I have found my mind wandering a bit today though, back through Israel’s history and what the Cross must have looked like at that fateful moment. We Westerners with our short historical attention span, we don’t (maybe can’t) fully appreciate how rich was the tradition that was re-inacted, re-framed and then exploded into enormous, life-altering proportions there in Gethsemane by Jesus. But those with ears to hear and eyes to see bore witness to the beginning of the eschaton. As the rabbi says, “What the Jews were expecting at the end of history God did in the middle of history” and that gets right to the heart of why (for any who are not Jesus followers and wonder what the fuss is all about), why we believers get so excited at Easter.

Back in my year in the Psalms I wrote a poem about this based on Psalms 20 & 21. So, here it is for Poetry Friday … have a great Good Friday everyone.

Victory Redux (Psalms 20-21)

Psalm 20 and 21 seem to be companion poems, with 20 describing (as Kidner titles it) “A Day of Trouble” and 21 describing “A Day of Rejoicing.” Psalm 20 and 21, when taken together, are clearly Messianic, but I was struck by how differently the Day of Trouble and the Day of Rejoicing played out for David and Jesus.

One man
crowned with gold stands in for the people.
Victory means freedom
Defeat means slavery
Life and death are at stake.

The people
chosen as one nation stand by their king
They pray for help
They trust in God
Weapons of war are futile.

Oh Lord, give victory;
Let the king answer us.

One man
crowned with thorns stands in for the people.
Victory means death
Defeat means escape
All creation holds its breath.

The people
drawn from every nation mock their King.
We divide his clothes
We pierce his side
The crowd is rabid with the kill.

Oh Lord, give victory;
Let the king answer us.


The Son of Man
crowned in glory enthroned among the nations
Hair white as snow
Eyes blazing as fire
Feet glowing as hot bronze
Voice like rushing water
Face brighter than the sun



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