Yeah, me too.
For those of you who missed the memo, it’s Holy Week. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve been feeling anything but holy. The last few days, I’ve been under a lot of stress from in a lot of different areas of my life. Sadly, it not only leaves me frustrated, exhausted, and irritable, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like, oh, I don’t know, actually stopping to breathe?? Let alone prayer, meditation, Scripture. Or sleep, for that matter.
Once school let out, that helped. But it’s been a rough week, and things aren’t looking to let up anytime soon. I have a long list of things that worry me, of pressures I stagger under, of expectations I struggle to meet, of demands that gobble up my time, energy, and willpower. So much so that it wasn’t until Friday that I suddenly realized: this was the day that Jesus died.
This was the day that Jesus died.
What do you say to that? How do you respond? It’s so ironic that we call it “Good Friday,” when for anyone around when it happened, this was defeat.
The cross was not a symbol of hope, of victory, or of faith. The cross was a brutal instrument of torturous execution, and for anyone who believed in Jesus, it was a sign of hopelessness, of defeat, and of loss. It meant that the man who they thought would be the One had died, and they had lost everything.
They had given everything to follow Jesus. They had left their homes, their families, their livelihoods, their reputations, their possessions far behind. And now he was dead.
And no one would be surprised if they were next.
And think of Jesus. How false the cheers of the crowd must have felt on Palm Sunday, when he knew that the same ones would be calling for his crucifixion just a few days later. Even at the Last Supper, his disciples still didn’t get it. What it must have taken to wash Judas’ feet and hours later receive his condemning kiss. His cries to God in the garden, under so much pressure that he was sweating blood.
How long it took. Trial after trial, flogging after flogging, the mocking cries echoing in his ears before finally, they put him on the cross, and he hung for hours, slowly asphyxiating.
And it was finished. Finally, it was finished.
And death had won. Satan had won. The Son of God was dead.
What if that were the end of the story?
Thank God it wasn’t.
The ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away–his perfect love could not be overcome! Now death, where is your sting?? Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated!
Nothing makes Easter matter more than wondering what if it hadn’t happened. The resurrection was bold, defiant, and triumphant. Christ has overcome! We have overcome! In the moment when all seemed lost–out of that came the whole point.
The resurrection is not a moment of “yay, Jesus is alive, clap-clap-clap, let’s go eat chocolate eggs!” No, the resurrection is a moment of power, when God showed once and for all who is in control. It’s a moment of defiance, of the powers of darkness that hold this world captive. The resurrection is not an event by itself–it’s powerful because Jesus. Was. Dead. Death is final. But…he is alive! Unstoppable, unfathomable, unbeatable love, standing tall in a white fire.
It’s humbling. And it’s awe-inspiring. It’s insane, really, that he should love me that much. I know I sure don’t deserve it, not me.
The disciples didn’t know he would rise again. Now he’s left us–but again, it is not forever. He’s coming back. Do you believe it?
John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. But behind those two little words, there lies a powerful theology. Here is part one of the story.
Lazarus laid in the bed, his sisters hovering over him. Martha, the elder, the ever-busy one, was bustling around him, trying to make him comfortable–fetching him water, another blanket. Though she knew by now–they all did–that it was pointless, she stubbornly refused to give up.
Mary was sitting by his side. No tears now. She put her hand on his beneath the sheets, but he couldn’t feel it. All he could feel was the pain, and he was ready now. Ready for it to stop. Ready to give in. Ready to surrender, to leave this broken body.
But he couldn’t yet. Jesus wasn’t here yet.
Jesus might be able to heal him. He’d done miracles before. Those who’d been blind all their lives could suddenly see. Those who’d never learned to walk were dancing in the streets. But even if he couldn’t, he had to say goodbye.
Because Jesus, to him, was more than a teacher, more than a prophet. More than a preacher, a revolutionary, even a Messiah. Jesus was a friend, and he loved him dearly.
Jesus would come. He had to come. He had to.
That was why Lazarus was holding on.
But he could feel himself slipping away. Jesus should have been here by now. The message had been sent two days ago. What if…
Lazarus’ thoughts dissolved in another round of wracking coughs. Martha ran to fetch him more water, and he didn’t have the breath to tell her not to waste the time. The light was already drawing nearer, spots dancing before his vision as his sister’s face faded.
Jesus hadn’t come.
And Lazarus was gone.
Out of the nothing, he heard a voice. A familiar voice, it seemed, but he couldn’t place it.
“Lazarus, come out.”
“Is that you, Jesus?” He’d come! But how…why was everything dark? What was that bright light? Why was he in a cave? And good heavens, WHAT was he WEARING??
He stood, carefully, loosening the tight wrappings enough to walk, and moved toward the light. Blinking, he stepped into the sun.
As his eyes adjusted, he saw his sister’s teary faces, suddenly full of joy. Running toward him, they nearly knocked him over with a huge hug. “You’re back,” Martha choked. Mary was too overcome to speak.
He looked around, and saw them all, his friends, his parents, his cousins and their wives. Standing there in shock as the dead man walked out of his own tomb.
And then his eyes found Jesus.
The prophet was standing there, with red eyes and a blotchy face. His eyes glistened, and Lazarus went to him.
“You came,” he breathed.