A long time ago I had a dream I've never forgotten. In my dream, it was a future when the world was in turmoil. It was a time when it seemed like you had to stand up for what you believed, or maybe you just had to stand up for people who were your friends.
In my dream the Jewish people were again being oppressed, segregated. Nobody knew what was happening for sure, but I remember that somehow I had been labeled as someone who might be a "friend of the Jews." This was not necessarily so unusual; in high school, I had a number of Jewish friends.
In my dream, I remember that I was looking for places to hide, but I was pretty sure that at some time I would be discovered. When that happened, I wanted to be able to stand up for what I believed, to stand by my friends, but the truth is: I didn't know what I would have done.
All these years I have been haunted by this dream. What would I have done? What would I do? Would I stand by my friends? Would I stand up for what was right?
On Friday, Pilate put up a sign on the cross. He wrote, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." He wrote the sign in three languages, to make sure that everyone would understand. The religious leaders took offence. "He's not our king," they said. But Pilate didn't care. He thought it was a good joke, maybe. "Here is the man," he said more than once. "Who's powerful now?" he was saying. "Here is the man who was supposed to be the king."
He thought he was telling a joke, but it was the truth. He was the king of the Jews, and of everyone else. He was the friend of the Jews, and the friend of sinners, the friend of those who stood at the foot of the cross and wept, the ones who denied him, the ones who ran away, the ones who laughed at him.
On Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross, we keep vigil, like people who gather a bedsides, we grieve, and we listen for last words, clues, words of wisdom that will help us go on. On Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross, and we see the words, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."
Maybe we are wondering what we would have done. Would we have betrayed him, not understanding his mission? Would we have denied him, afraid? Would we have wept at the foot of the cross?
The truth is, we don't know what we would have done.
But we know what he did. He did not deny us. He did not run away. He stood up by his friends. "King of the Jews, friend of sinners." He loved us to the end.
And because of this, we stand at the foot of the cross this day, knowing that in his love, there is no end.