Good Friday: A Collect Reflection
By Kolby Kerr
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Every collect makes a request. After all, the essential act of any prayer is asking. This may at first seem selfish—shouldn’t prayer be about giving thanks?
But remember Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee’s prayer was one of thanks; namely, he thanked God that he wasn’t like all those other sinners over there (especially that disgusting tax collector!). The tax collector’s prayer was a request: “God, be merciful to me!”
Asking always begins with an admission of our insufficiency. We are brought back down to our proper place as children, which is precisely the posture God desires (as Jesus outlines in Matthew 7:7-11). This is why the Psalms are always asking, even pleading—hear me, save me, draw near to me, etc.
“Behold This Your Family”
So what does this Good Friday collect ask of God? It’s a stunningly simple request: “…behold this your family…”
In this holy moment, this darkest of days, we ask God in his love and grace to see us, to hold us in his sight.
The request is as essential as it is simple, because at the core of our being, isn’t this what we are looking for? To be seen, to be known, to belong, to be held.
Also, notice that this request to be seen isn’t relegated to the purely personal. The request is for all of us—the gathered community of worshippers. We do not single out ourselves for special notice.
The Family of Jesus Christ
The simplicity of the request here belies a complex and wonderful truth. We are only enabled to ask to be seen, identified, and esteemed by God as his family through saving work of Jesus. As Paul says in Romans 8:12-17, it is our status as God’s adopted children that allows us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’
The collect rehearses the escalating awfulness of the path Christ took, emphasizing his willingness to be betrayed by those closest to him, delivered over to those who misunderstood and despised him, and, at last, to suffer the cruelty of the cross.
The willingness of Christ, so poignantly expressed in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46), affirms the never-failing love of God.
A Plain Good Friday
There are fewer collects as plain and unadorned as this. There will be a season for over-flowing rhetoric, abounding imagery, and grand requests. But this plainness fits this day.
On Good Friday, we are suspended for the briefest moments in hopelessness. We find ourselves in darkness, not certain if any sun shall ever rise. And so we pray not for eyes to see, but rather to be seen.
As we recall Jesus’ suffering upon the cross, we remember that we are seen by God because Christ was willing to be forsaken.