|Walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, 2009|
“It was noon, and darkness came over the whole land…for the sun stopped shining and the curtain in the temple was torn in two…. Jesus called out in a loud voice ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The Centurion, seeing what had happened praised God and said “surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance, watching these things.” Luke 23:44-48
Its Holy Week. The week we Christians remember the Cross of Jesus on Good Friday and the bewildering subsequent events that transpired three days later. The dialog is somewhat uniform on good friday: everyone knows what that day is about. Its about a suffering messiah, an innocent man whose life was a hinge that turned history, and his atoning execution while he hung on a piece of wood. Its about a Jewish holiday: passover… about how God commanded Israel to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and wipe its blood on the doorposts of their houses, so that when the spirit of God came to exact vengeance upon Egypt by taking all of her firstborn, he would pass over the Israelites marked by the blood of the lamb… Good Friday is about a new lamb, unblemished, whose blood would be smeared upon the doorposts of the universe as God’s Trojan Horse against the condemnation of evil, and that all who trust in that sacrifice as the sufficiency of all of life and as the inaugeration of a new creation…
That’s Friday. Another dead Jew hanging on a cross. Another crucified Messiah. The only reason we celebrate Friday is because we know Sunday is coming…
Then there’s Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the event that catalyzed and ignited the church: the resurrection of Jesus. Its Easter Sunday where we celebrate the hope of new life, both here and now, and after we die. We celebrate the hope of a new creation… a redeemed world… a renewed and restored earth. We celebrate victory… over sin, over death, over despair, over destruction and over disease. We celebrate life eternal: as much a quality as a quantity. About life after death and about life before it.
The hard part about Easter is that in a Friday world, we await a Sunday renewal … but so much of the time we seem to be living Saturday lives. Saturday is the great silence. The despair in thinking that Jesus was dead. The disciples living in fear and hiding because of fear of opposition. Waiting to see what might happen. Waiting to see if Israel’s God really would act on their behalf. Waiting to see if this was just another failed revolutionary. We too live in waiting…
Waiting is hard. We’ve heard that a new creation and a new life is possible, but all the evidence in front of us often suggests that this is not the case. Habits remain unbroken. Wars continue to rage in the news. People we love continue to die from cancer. That’s the tension of Saturday… of life in between. We all know that life has a way of sometimes eroding your hope: events happen that leave you wondering if God is real, if he even cares, and if there is any hope for the future at all.
Often we cannot see what God is doing in the ‘in-between’ place. We don’t realize that things which to us have completely shattered our hope might actually turn out to be God’s unexpected pathway to joy. Often in the Bible this is exactly what happens, whether it is Joseph sold into slavery, Jonah dehydrating in the middle of the desert, Paul shipwrecked on Malta, or Jesus hanging on a cross. God often does his most powerful work during the Saturday darkness.
So this easter weekend some of you who will go to church and roll your eyes at more talk of a guy raising from the dead… remember that no matter how hopeless your situation may seem paradoxically it is very often in the darkness, the silence, and the waiting in which we hear the voice of God the most clearly. Remember that it was just after this darkest hour that God’s most brightest hope dawned… the resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of a brand new creation untouched by sin or death, which all people can be a part of through faith.
And even though our world is a Friday world, and we often live Saturday lives waiting, wondering, hoping, one way or another, in Jesus Christ, the dawn of Sunday morning is always coming.