Every year for Good Friday, I try to craft a short story that might convey to the children present at our service, something of the mystery of this day.
Here is this year’s Good Friday children’s story.
Veronica had been out in the streets of Jerusalem all day playing with her friends. When she got home she found her mother was sad again.
For many months, since Veronica’s father was taken by the Roman soldiers, her mother had been terribly unhappy.
Veronica had been terrified when the soldiers came to arrest her father. She knew her father would never hurt anyone; but the soldiers came with spears and swords. They said they were arresting Veronica’s father because he was a dangerous man who was trying to destroy the government.
Veronica’s mother had screamed at the soldiers. She had tried to fight them on that terrible day. But they just brushed her aside as they dragged Veronica’s father out of the house.
Ever since her father’s arrest, Veronica’s mother had been desperately unhappy. She found it hard to look after Veronica and almost never went out of the house. Friends came to try to cheer her up; they brought food and cleaned Veronica’s house, while her mother sat in a corner with a sad expression on her face.
But recently something had happened. One day, on a rare occasion when she went out, Veronica’s mother had come home with a little bit of light in her eyes. For the whole of the rest of that day Veronica did not see tears in her mother’s eyes. The next day, Veronica’s mother went out again. When she came home, she actually had a smile on her face.
Veronica could not imagine what had happened. But she was afraid to ask in case the question made her mother sad again. Finally, a few weeks ago Veronica’s mother had said, “Veronica, I am sorry I have been sad for so long. I know I have not been a very good mother to you over the past few months.”
Veronica’s mother stopped talking. Together they sat in silence. Veronica did not know what to say. Her mother took her hand and held it gently. Then Veronica’s mother said in a soft voice, “I have met a man who has given me new hope in my heart.”
Veronica was puzzled and troubled by her mother’s strange words. Fearfully, she asked her mother, “Is he going to be my new Daddy.”
“Oh no,” her mother said holding Veronica close to her chest. “No one could ever replace your Daddy. This man’s name is Jesus. He is gentle and good and kind like your father, but I do not feel the same way about Jesus that I feel about your Daddy. Jesus is a poor travelling preacher; he speaks about love and peace. And when he talks, I feel a warmth and joy in my heart that is even stronger and deeper than the happiness I had with your father.”
Veronica did not know how to understand her mother’s strange words. But she had been happy for anything that made her mother feel happier and more peaceful.
But now suddenly her mother’s happiness was gone again. Veronica noticed as soon as her mother came home. The dark sad lines had formed around her mother’s eyes again. Her mouth seemed set in a grim line of sadness.
“What is wrong?” Veronica asked as soon as she saw her mother.
At first there was no response. Then slowly, as if from a deep well of sorrow, her mother’s voice said, “They have taken him.”
“Who? Who have they taken? Who has taken him? Where? Where have they taken him?” Veronica asked her voice quivering with fright.
“The soldiers,” her mother replied. “The soldiers have taken Jesus.”
Veronica heard the words, but they made no sense.
“Why?” she asked, “Why would powerful soldiers bother with a poor, harmless teacher who only speaks about love and healing and gives people hope in their hearts?”
At first her mother didn’t answer; then she said simply, “Their hearts are afraid.”
Then Veronica’s mother became silent. The silence weighed heavy and oppressive in the room.
After a while, the growling hunger in her stomach drove Veronica out of the house into the market where she hoped to scrounge some bits of food.
As she made her way through the narrow streets, Veronica saw a large crowd. People were shouting and jeering. Others were standing quietly. She noticed a few people weeping and some of the women were wailing in voices of great lament.
Veronica squeezed through the crowd until she came to the edge of the street that was lined with people on both sides. Veronica looked down the street and saw a man staggering towards her surrounded by soldiers. He was carrying two large beams of wood, one across his shoulder, the other dragging on the ground behind him. He had a strange crown of thorns on his head. As he struggled along the street, soldiers shouted at him and beat him with whips.
When he drew near to Veronica, the man carrying the cross stopped. She noticed his whole body was shaking. Suddenly his knees buckled, he fell forward; the heavy beam of wood crushed his body into the cobble stones. Without thinking, Veronica dashed forward. She took the edge of her shawl and wiped his face.
Their eyes met. Veronica felt the suffering in this man’s face. But then she saw something deeper, a strength and beauty that seemed greater than all the pain he was experiencing.
The man gazed deep into Veronica’s eyes, as if from a well of gentleness. Then he spoke, “Veronica. I know your mother. You must take her a message for me. Tell her that life is stronger than death. Love defeats hatred. Peace conquers violence. These things are always true. No matter how sad she may be; help your mother never forget.”
Just as he said the last word a soldier brushed Veronica aside and kicked the helpless man in the ribs. They dragged him to his feet. He looked one last time at Veronica and then staggered away dragging his clumsy cross.
As she watched him go, Veronica didn’t stop to wonder how he had known her name. But she heard his words again sounding deep in her heart: “Life is stronger than death. Love defeats hatred. Peace conquers violence.” How could this be when there was so much hatred and anger in the world?
She turned towards home. As she struggled through the crowd, Veronica felt something growing in her heart. She felt a deep certainty that the words this man had spoken were true even though the world was so often harsh and painful. “Life is stronger than death. Love defeats hatred. Peace conquers violence.” And Veronica knew that she would be able to bring his message to her mother and that together they would help each other believe.
©Christopher Page March 2016