The week began as a celebration. Their King, the chosen one of Israel, had arrived to make all wrongs right. They laid a path of palm branches before him; they laughed, and danced, and sang.
Then Friday arrived.
Suddenly, their savior seemed nothing of the sort. Arrested, taking the place of a vicious criminal, he was mocked and scorned; scourged and crowned with thorns. He made no attempt to fight back. They watched in horror as he struggled to carry a wooden cross to Golgotha, Skull Hill . . . as the soldiers hammered nails into his hands . . . as the cross was put in the ground . . .
To those who had believed in his physical power, it was humiliating; to those who had walked with him–who loved him as a son and brother, friend and mentor–it was heartbreaking. The boy they watched grow up; the teenager they watched learn his father’s trade; the man they watched heal the sick, feed the hungry, love the unlovable was being tortured right before their eyes. And there was not a thing they could do about it.
When he spoke out in pain and anguish, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”–“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”–it was nearly more than they could bare.
When he said, “It is finished” no doubt they thought he meant their hope.
We tend to gloss right over the fact that it was a dreadful day, full of unspeakable misery and despair. It’s only good because of what happened on the third day. On the third day, that borrowed tomb was empty. Death no longer held sway.
Because of that fact, no matter how dark the day, how hopeless the situation, there is, indeed, hope.
It may be Friday, my friends, but Sunday’s on the way . . .
Imagine for a moment, you face incredible anguish. You pray, but it seems your prayers hit a wall and drop to earth like stone. So you turn to your friends. They’re tired; they can’t be bothered to bear your burden. Those who used to hang on your every word, they’ve turned against you—seemingly overnight. We won’t even broach the state of the church, governing officials.
At one time or another, we all face our own Garden of Gethsemane. As C.S. Lewis once wrote (in Letters to Malcolm),“You see how characteristic, how representative, it all is. In Christ’s passion we find ‘the human situation writ large.’”
Thankfully, we also find peace; we find hope; we find courage to carry on.
We find love like no other.
May you be blessed with them all, this Easter season and always . . .
Today, you may have noticed, is Good Friday–otherwise known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, even Long Friday. Personally, that last one seems most appropriate, especially for the one whom we celebrate. Even those of us who observe Easter with great pomp and circumstance, tend to gloss over the painful details of Friday. Who wants to mix sadness with joy? Gore with brightly colored eggs?
I’ve long mixed the two myself–figuratively speaking, of course.
In elementary school we were assigned the creation of Easter works of art. There we sat, surrounded by crate paper, Crayolas, and Elmer’s glue, furiously cutting out magic with each snip of the plastic scissors. When all was said and done, we hung them on the wall. As you may imagine, mine stood out. It was three crosses on a hill–with Easter eggs hidden in the grass, below. Obviously, my teacher never fathomed such a blatant nod to faith, for she pulled me aside and informed me the error of my ways.
Funny thing, my Sunday School teacher most likely would have reprimanded me for mixing eggs and Golgatha.
Yet to me, faith in things above, cannot help but mingle with that here below. For that is life. And life? Well, that’s the whole point of Easter.
So to you, dear friends, I wish glorious days ahead. Whether you fill baskets, hunt for eggs, or worship; whether you do a little of each or nothing at all, I wish a weekend kissed with mercy, wrapped in love, and filled with peace.
Happy Easter weekend to you and yours!
y first car was a lime colored, 1979 Dodge Colt hatchback, with Cashmere plaid interior and a white vinyl top. Despite the fact you periodically had to scrape the windows from the inside while driving, “Kermie” was the best car ever. And I cared for him like no other.
Washings were all day events, complete with threading rags through the vents to make them shine.
One day, while heading out to give Kermie a good clean, I determined to hang a cross from the rear view mirror. You see, my brother had purchased a little marble cross, and presented it to me as a gift. We’d had a hard go of it; and, while young, he understood that sometimes you just need a reminder that someone understands, that someone cares.
The minute I received the gift I knew right where it would be displayed–I needed only a fanciful ribbon with which to hang it.
But days turned to weeks, weeks, months and still no ribbon. So that day, bucket full of suds in one hand, rags in the other, I said a silent prayer, Lord, while I would love to have a ribbon with which to hang my cross, string will have to do. Then I went on my way.
I was nearly finished cleaning the dash when something caught my eye. It was down in the vents; vents I had cleaned many a time before. After some finagling I managed to pull it through . . . a perfect, silken blue ribbon. The perfect length to hang my cross.
That ribbon has long since disintegrated. Yet I can’t help think of it, this time of year especially. It’s the perfect reminder that sometimes life gets dark and ugly. Sometimes we haven’t even the words to utter aloud. But there’s someone who knows. He’s been there. And sometimes–when we least expect it, when we’re least deserving–He’ll remind us, someone does care. We need only pay attention; we need only accept His gift.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!