This morning I wake to a darkness that fills my tiny bedroom. I don’t get up right away, but lay here, silently, eyes closed, ears open to nature’s commotion outside my window, which assures me that the light of morning is on the horizon. And then it strikes me, as a metaphor of sorts, for the meaning of this weekend…
As a little girl, I remember my mother stating that Easter was her favorite holiday. At the time, I could hardly understand why. Why would anyone choose an early morning spent in stuffy dress clothes, sitting in a hard seat, listening to some man drone on and on for the better part of an hour? When all the while you could choose the holiday with the fat jolly man who brings presents directly to your living room, where you can spend all day in your pajamas. It’s like choosing vanilla when you can have chocolate. Sure, it’s an option, but it doesn’t make it a good one!
At the time, I just figured that’s what happens when you get old, you forget what fun is.
The implication of this weekend, for those of us who consider ourselves Christ-followers, is momentous. But, where does one choose to focus their attention in reflecting on this weekend? Clearly, it would seem Christ’s resurrection is the pivotal moment of importance. No? I mean, without his resurrection, the Christian faith becomes…futile. Without the resurrection of Christ, Jesus becomes nothing more than a man. Conversely, with his resurrection, everything changes. And, I mean, everything! Hope is restored, brokenness is mended, ashes turn to beauty, and mankind is connected with his glorious Creator.
It’s ‘Resurrection Sunday’ that permits the ‘Good’ in Good Friday. Without the resurrection, Friday becomes a tragic day in Roman history, where a really nice man, who spent time with the sick, poor, and outcasts of society was mercilessly beaten and left for dead. For no reason.
Good Friday. The day that signifies that Jesus stood in for me, absorbing the wrath and abandonment of his Father, on my behalf, so I would never have to. How do we not stop in reflection and genuine exploration of what that event means? The picture of Jesus, nailed to a cross shows us two things. One, who we truly are when left to our own nature: depraved, wicked, violent, self-absorbed, prideful, vengeful, jealous, out-for-our-own-good. Two, it shows us who this God-man Jesus is: completely loving, unbelievably merciful, abundantly gracious, Rescuer of mankind.
As a kid Santa brought me some amazing gifts throughout the years: my first leather basketball, my first pair of Skids, my first suede coat… never once did that fat jolly old man offer to stand in, as a ransom, paying my debt. Never once did he offer me the gift of life. And I don’t just mean life after death, I mean real life, in the here and now. The kind of life that when the storms of circumstance, disappointment, failed dreams, disease, addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and death come crashing in, so hard that you feel like you don’t have it in you to face another day—The God-man Jesus steps in. He kneels down, eye level, and reminds us that he has known sorrow and pain, too. And, the good news is, he has conquered it all.
Holy Thursday is the day that puts it all into proper perspective, for me—the passage of scripture, where Jesus is with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. You know the scene. The disciples have fallen asleep, even though Jesus pleaded with them not to.
Night has fallen. He’s alone, knelt over by a half dead tree. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus exclaims into the darkness, as tears sting the back of his eyes. He knows his hour has come. He can feel it, deep inside. As he sits there, alone, he prays through grinding teeth: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” This is exactly what he and his Father have been discussing for centuries. This very moment in history. The moment where he exchanges garments with his creation, taking on our depravity, experiencing the wrath and abandonment of his Father, while giving us his righteousness.
I’m reminded this morning, as I lay here in my dark tiny bedroom with morning light on the horizon that the cup of suffering he swallowed wasn’t his—it was mine. And he swallowed it fully, absorbing it all on my behalf. It’s in reflecting on this great exchange that my perspective is set right. A perspective in which I assume my rightful place, one of humble gratitude at the cross, in recognition of the greatest gift I have ever received: Jesus, my great Rescuer.