My brother recently said something along the lines of, “In our lives we experience many deaths, the death of a dream, the death of a loved one, the death of our youth and our health. We may mourn each of these deaths in our lives but we have to remember that God always seeks to bring resurrection and new life from every death. This isn’t always in the way that we would hope or imagine, but there is always resurrection and new life waiting for us on the other side of death.” Death is not something we enjoy thinking about. But there was hope in his words. Life from death. Seems so contradictory. I know that is what Easter is all about, but I think all too often we want to rush past the painful parts to get on to the “good” stuff. The same is true in our lives. We don’t want to sit in the pain, or the disappointment. “It will work out in the end.” “Don’t worry, be happy.” This is a disingenuous positivity. There are times in life that are hard and to brush by them is not what God has ever called us to. If we don’t allow sorrow, can we truly appreciate joy? Without Good Friday and the silence of Saturday, Easter Sunday wouldn’t be the joyous occasion it is.
Our church does a Good Friday service. There’s a choir and the pastors take turns reading parts of the story of the crucifixion. They start with four candles lit at the front of the sanctuary and after each pastor reads a section of scripture, he’ll proceed to snuff out a candle. After Jesus is placed in the tomb the last candle is extinguished and the lights are all shut off. We’re surrounded by darkness and silence.
As we quietly filed out of church there was a heaviness in the air. The unfinished story brought sorrow and a sense of hopelessness. I can only imagine what His disciples, friends and family must have been going through. I’ve experienced the death of a loved one and the void that it leaves, the raw pain, the denial of reality. As the sun sank on Friday and they lifted His limp body off the cross, wrapped it in linen, and laid Him in the tomb, what was going through their minds? As they rolled the stone over the opening and the ground shook as it settled into place, was there any hope? As they all walked home feeling lost and without purpose, they must have been wondering what now? Trying to fall asleep that night and not be haunted by the sights and sounds of the day. Rising the next morning blurry eyed, hoping it was all just a nightmare only to realize that He was still dead. That the nightmare was as real today as it was yesterday. Going through the motions of the Sabbath, did they doubt the goodness of God? Did they question why a loving God would allow such horror to befall their beloved teacher, friend, and son? Saturday must have been filled with constant tears and the feeling that life would never be the same. As they went to bed Saturday night trying to figure out how to resume “normal” life on Sunday and the void of what had been must have been almost suffocating. What if the story had ended there? What if Sunday morning never happened?
We rush through the pain, the ugliness, the loss at the cross so that we can feel good on Sunday morning. Not wanting to recognize that we are at fault for His death. That it’s because of us that He had to endure the cross. In the garden He begged that the cup be removed from Him, asking God if there was any other way. He suffered for me. He was mocked, tortured, beaten, humiliated, for me. This is not a place I want to dwell. I hated leaving the church that night with Christ still in the grave. I don’t like sitting in the pain and remembrance of all He gave up and what I had cost Him. I want to rush to Sunday morning. I want to gloss over all my guilt and get to the fun parts of resurrection, salvation, forgiveness, heaven, hope and peace. But without the cross, none of that could have been possible. I can’t be truly grateful for Sunday without realizing that I am guilty of His death on Friday.
As Sunday morning approaches this year, I find myself longing for the celebration of the resurrection, the hope of His love for me, the forgiveness for what I cost Him, and proclaiming, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? For by His wounds, I am healed. It is Finished!”
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.