Last night I said that the addresses for then and now would be about hands and feet.   Last night we thought about hands Jesus’ hands broke bread and passed the cup.

Jesus hands washed the disciples’ feet.    St Paul handed on to us what he himself had received, the Eucharist in which we recreate that last night and receive Christ into our hands.

And then comes today, Good Friday.   On this day we turn our attention to feet, to journeys, to the cross, on those who fled the scene and those who stayed.

In the three and a bit years of Jesus’ life we know something about he spent a lot of time on his feet.    He lived the life of an itinerant preacher, walking from town to town.    There were no cars or buses.    Riding on a donkey was about as luxurious as life got, so he spent an awful lot of time on his feet.

On this his last day, Jesus is taken from place to place, from the High priest to Pilate.    And then comes his final journey.   He is carrying his cross.   He has been flogged and beaten, knocked from his feet.    He walks the streets, cobbled or dusty, and falls beneath the weight of the cross.

When he gets to the place of crucifixion, his twisted body is manipulated onto the cross.   He hands and feet are held in place and nailed into place.   It’s gruesome stuff.   It comes with an 18 certificate.   This was death and a public and humiliating death at that.    He would not walk another step.

Our feet have brought us here this afternoon.    We’d likely rather not.   This is a service unlike any other.    A service we avoid.

The disciples too avoided what was happening.    Their feet sped them away from their places of denial and betrayal.     As St Matthew tells it ‘all the disciples deserted him and fled.[1]    We don’t know where they ran to, but we do know that none of them were there at the end.

It’s tempting perhaps to think of them as cowards though if we’re honest we know that we too might have done the same.    We too would’ve walked away.   Retreated to a safe place to hide and hope no one finds us.    Hope that no one remembers that we were one of those followers who’d walked with Jesus.

Presumably wherever they were eventually the news of Jesus’ death would have reached them.    I wonder then if they dared to return to the place where it had all come to an end, to the garden, to the streets he walked, to Golgotha or perhaps they just got as far away as possible?

Whatever happened to the disciples, the Gospels tell us Jesus wasn’t completely alone; each of them in their own way describe how some stayed.

‘Many women were also there, looking on from a distance’[2] writes St Matthew, ‘among them Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Salome’[3] says St Mark.

St Luke broadens it out more ‘all his acquaintances, (an interesting translation) including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.[4]

St John adds his own interpretation and brings Jesus’ mother Mary into the scene in the version we have heard this afternoon which tells of Jesus invites her into a new relationship with the beloved disciple. [5]

Though these accounts of his death are different, they’re also strikingly similar in that there were some who were there.   Their feet, however reluctantly took them to Golgotha and they stayed there and watched him die.

For all of us there have probably been times when our feet have taken us to places that we do not want to go.

To the bedside of a loved one whose life is coming to an end.

To a difficult meeting, we’d rather avoid.

To be confronted with a situation or tragedy that you do not know how to respond.

I recently watched again that wonderful film Shadowlands about the relationship between C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham.

At first their marriage was one of convenience, he sharing his passport to allow her to stay in this country.   Then it became a marriage of love.    That love though was forged by tragedy, by the cancer that killed her.

In his performance Anthony Hopkins marvellously captures the bewilderment caused by watching another suffer, of standing there powerless, unable to find the words.

At the foot of the cross this afternoon we’re in that place where words run out, mindful that whatever the betrayals or denials some did stay.    Some watched and waited.    That’s watching and waiting is it seems to me what we’re about.

Through Passiontide, the words ‘standing at the foot of the cross’ have accompanied us.    Today reminds us that these are not just fine words but an invitation; an invitation to not be afraid to stand in those places we’d rather not.    Whether that’s in our own lives or as we look upon our world.

Faced with the tragedies that confront us daily, it’s easy to walk away, to not wait and watch and enter in.    However today challenges us to plant our feet in the here and now, in the midst of death and loss and forsakenness and stay in what the psalmist described as ‘the valley of the shadow of death[6].

So today we don’t leap to the end of the story we wait, we watch and we hear again the words that reverberate around the world this day ‘It is finished.’

[1] Matt 26 verse 56

[2] Matt 27.55

[3] Mark 15.40

[4] Luke 23.49

[5] John 19.26

[6] Psalm 23