Tag Archives: Resurrection of Jesus

Being Present to Black Friday

We don’t call it “Good Friday” here, because, in those moments, there was nothing good about it.  After enjoying dinner, twelve disciples watched their leader get arrested.  Then what happened to them?  All we know is that Peter followed along, likely staying close to hear what was going on but even so, denying knowing Jesus at all.  Judas committed suicide out of remorse for his betrayal of Jesus.  As for the rest?  They probably scattered in fear.  Likely we all would.

As Peter followed Jesus and the crowd as the guards dragged Jesus first to the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, then to Herod and back to Pilate (in Luke’s account), he was scared to death.  Unsure.  Hesitant.  Too scared even to admit to knowing Jesus.

Then Friday dawns.  Jesus is bruised, beaten, bloody.  He hasn’t slept, opting instead to pray for hours during the long night after dinner.  He’s been betrayed, he’s feeling friendless – he’s alone, for all intents and purposes.  Soon he will be forced to walk the two miles from the Praetorium to Golgotha.  Some gospel accounts have him carrying his cross the whole way, others have the Roman soldiers conscripting Simon of Cyrene to carry it part of the way.  Regardless, he picked up his cross.  He accepted the death sentence.

And now it’s 9 a.m.  The soldiers nail Jesus to the cross.  They laugh and jeer, as do people in the crowd.  They divide Jesus’ things amongst themselves and cast lots for his robe.  For the next six hours, Jesus will hear the taunts and jeers of the soldiers, the religious leaders, and the rest of the crowd.  Even one of the thieves beside him would taunt him.  John tells us that Jesus looked down and saw his mother and his “beloved disciple,” giving them to each other, commissioning John to take care of Mary.  The rest of Jesus’ followers?  Who knows where they are.  Probably hiding out in fear, not wanting to be discovered, not wanting to be found guilty by association.

Noon.  Darkness falls over the land.  Jesus continues to suffer, breath coming harder.  The crowds and soldiers continue to watch and mock.  Crucified people slowly suffocate and die, eventually becoming too weak to push up against the nails or ropes, the weight of the body as it hangs preventing the lungs from taking in enough air.

Three p.m.  Jesus gives a loud cry and dies.  The Roman soldiers don’t need to break his legs to hasten death as they had to to the thieves.  The eleven remaining disciples are nowhere to be found.  Two members of the Council, secret followers of Jesus, now come out and one approaches Pilate, requesting the body of Jesus.  The other helps him take the body down.  They wrap the body in herbs and linens before laying it in a new tomb.  The women who followed Jesus follow the two men, noting where Jesus was before going home for Sabbath rest.

Sunset comes and with it, the Sabbath begins.  We don’t know what the disciples did, but we can imagine how they felt.  They would have felt fear and uncertainly.  They were heartbroken about losing their friend and teacher.  The disciples were crushed with disappointment, because they truly believed that Jesus was heralding a new messianic era, a time when the Israelites would rise up and destroy their Roman oppressors.

In the evangelical church, we grab hold of “Sunday’s coming!”  We want to skip right past the ugly, emotional events of Thursday night and Friday and get to the joy of Sunday.  As I was growing up, we went from Palm Sunday with its Hosannas to Resurrection Sunday with its Hallelujahs.  In fact, there was the unspoken belief that the suffering of cancer, miscarriages, and chronic illnesses was because of one’s sin, so such issues were kept secret and private to avoid judgment.  We didn’t talk about suffering at all, not even the life-changing suffering of Jesus Christ.

However, are we not first followers of Christ?  We need to embrace the pain that Jesus and his followers faced.  We need to understand the pain, sense of betrayal, heartbreak, disappointment, sadness, the mind-melting fatigue, and the fear of those first disciples.  But why?  Why do we want even to visit this place of darkness?  We do so, because we will visit this valley in our lives.  We will feel all of these emotions, and we will experience the paralysis that comes from overwhelming inundation of feeling many of them at the same time.

Yes, we have the hope of the resurrection and new life in Christ, but that doesn’t take away the reality of the pain.  Sure, “Sunday is coming,” but the disciples didn’t know that, or, rather, they didn’t believe it.  And Sunday coming two days later does not, in any way, change the reality that today is Friday and today is dark with grief and fear.

So let’s stay here for today – and tomorrow, too.  Let’s understand and feel the richness of the emotions of this day, even when they’re not all pastel, fluffy, cotton-tailed happiness.  Let’s be present to these emotions, realizing that we must have sadness in order to appreciate best the joy of the empty tomb and what that means for our lives.  To do less than this is to cheapen the value of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, ignoring it because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

Yes! On the Right Track!

Events of the weekend brought to mind this passage from Acts 5*:

33 When they [the members of the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

When someone who is “religious” tells you that speaking the truth is wrong and that preaching the Word of God is wrong, then that tells me I am totally on the right track.  Satan used someone this weekend to try to undermine the message of love that fills the entire Bible; that came to completeness in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and that, paired with “don’t judge others, ’cause your life is just as messy,” exemplifies how we Christians should live.  It’s small in the realm of persecutions, but it lets me know I’m on the right track, that Satan doesn’t like that message.  So I’m gonna just rock on with preaching this word of God’s love and acceptance for all people; it’s beautifully inclusive.

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people…” (Luke 2:10)

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

 

*Scripture references are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.

 

Death Denying Church

English: Titian's Ancona Crucifiction, 1558.

English: Titian’s Ancona Crucifiction, 1558. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, Sunday’s coming–but that’s for another day. Today is Friday, and tomorrow is Saturday. It was so for Jesus, it is so for our world, and if it is not so for us, we might actually be self-serving, world-denying Gnostics.  ~Dr. Steven Harmon

All day today, my Facebook feed had variations of the same message:  “Today is Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”  This simple message anticipated the resurrection of Christ, that moment when the women discovered that Jesus had risen and had been the first to proclaim the Good News.  It anticipates the Christian joyful belief that Christ had defeated death after descending into Hades as the ancient creeds posit.

But before there is Sunday and the Resurrection, there is Friday.  There is betrayal.  Dismay.  Bone-crushing grief.  Anger.  Confusion.  Sadness.  Uncertainty.  Doubt.  Before there is Sunday, there is a flogged, torn and bleeding Messiah nailed to a crude wooden cross.  Before there is Sunday, there is a man who came to save his nation, but who was rejected by those same people.  Before there is Sunday, there is a follower who betrays his Lord and friend.  Before Sunday comes, one of Jesus’ most trusted friends denies even knowing him – because he was so afraid.  Before Sunday comes, there are followers scared and trembling, rightly fearing for their own lives.

Before Sunday comes, a Roman puppet governor gives in to the crowd.  Before Sunday comes, the religious leaders would pat themselves on the back for getting rid of a “problem” in order to save Israel from the Romans, little knowing that Jesus came to save Israel first.  This “problem” would prove to be the least of their worries as the resurrected Messiah would empower his followers to even more boldness in the name of Jesus.  Nor would killing this Messiah be successful at preventing the Romans from defeating Jerusalem; it just delayed the inevitable.

Before Sunday comes, a thief receives the promise of Paradise.  Before Sunday comes, a heart-broken mother receives a new son.  Before Sunday comes, a member of the religious ruling class would bury this bruised and bleeding body in a new garden tomb.  Before Sunday comes, followers scatter and flee in fear for their lives.

If we ignore Christ’s agony of today as he hung on the cross; if we ignore the fear, sadness and confusion of those early followers; and if we ignore the raw misery of God as God watched God’s own son suffer, bleed and die for God’s creation, then we risk ignoring the suffering and pain in the world around us. We risk fluffing over the incredibly high price that Jesus paid for our sins. We risk minimizing the degree to which that debt was ours that God canceled for us. We risk minimizing the power of the cross for our own comfort.