As I stand at the cross today with Jesus, looking into his eyes, wondering how in the world he could love me this much, I am totally overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by his pain, his loneliness, his brokenness, and his sacrifice. Overwhelmed, and overcome, by the power of his Great Affection. Overwhelmed by the enormous price of my sin.
I am also overwhelmed by the suffering and the sorrow, the sadness and the grief, that surrounds him. What must this day have been like for his mother? For his brothers? For his friends? For all those who loved him so? The sadness and the grief, even in the midst of holding onto the hope of eternal life, must have been immense. Having recently stood in the midst of those who have lost one who was dearly loved, I can only imagine the pain. Having lost a child of my own long ago, it is not hard to remember the anguish and the agony of that loss, even knowing someday that there will be gain.
On this Good Friday, what are we to do with all of this? It seems that there are two options. On the one hand we can endure and embrace it. Or, on the other, we can allow it to eat us alive from the inside out. Caryll Houselander once wrote: "No one can escape it; everyone must somehow either make friends with suffering or be broken by it. No one can come close to another, let alone love him, without coming close to his suffering. Christ did far more, he wed himself to our suffering, he made death his bride, and in the consummation of his love, he gave her his life." So somehow, in embracing our pain, we not only join hands with the God who embraced, and redeemed, our own, but we also hold on to the possibility that this pain will, someday, help us to be joined in wonderfully intimate community with each other.
But I think the grief and sadness of Good Friday, ultimately, has something to teach us about the heart of God; a God we tend to blame and grow embittered against whenever suffering barges into our well-ordered, once-peaceful lives. As M. Robert Mulholland Jr. writes: "God's most profound self-revelation is seen in the cross. We usually think of the cross as something God 'did' to 'solve' the sin problem that alienates us from God. But in reality, the cross reveals who God is, not what God did as an action separate from God's nature." The cross, and Good Friday, is not meant merely to show us what God did, but to show us who he is. He is not One who stands far off from us, orchestrating the tragedies in our lives. Nor is he One who stands idly by, refusing to use his power for our benefit, just to test us to see it we've got what it takes. He is a good, good Father. One who enters into the chaos with us. One who willingly watches his own Son be put to death by the very people he came to save; in order that they might one day come to know the joy and delight they were made to live in. He is a Father, even as the events of Good Friday unfold, whose heart breaks in grief and in agony over the necessity of the whole endeavor. So much so that he blackens the sun, he causes the earth to shake, and he tears his heavenly robes (the curtain of the temple) in grief as his Son Jesus cries out and breathes his last.
Where is God on Good Friday? He is grieving right along with us...waiting for Sunday to come. Thanks be to God!
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