From Horrible to Good Friday
It’s Good Friday for us. But it had to have been Horrible Friday for them.
This year, my heart goes out more than ever to Jesus’ original followers on that “not-so-Good Friday.” If you read last week’s post you know that my husband and I had been waiting to become parents for what feels like a really long time—about 10 years. Finally, last week our hopes and dreams were fulfilled when little foster son Benjamin was placed into our care. And then, just 23 hours later, our parenting hopes were gone, and our dreams were crushed as the judge said we had to give him to his great grandparents.
Last Sunday was Palm Sunday. On that first Palm Sunday, the people of Israel (God’s chosen) had been waiting for a Messiah for a very long time. I mean, a really really long time.
About 1475 years before that first Palm Sunday, Moses said the Messiah would crush the head of Satan. (Genesis 3:15)
About 730 years before it, Micah said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) About 705 years before it, Isaiah said the Messiah would die with the wicked but be buried with the rich. (Isaiah 53:9)
And About 550 years before it, Zechariah said Israel would realize they had “pierced” the Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10)
These guys and other prophets said it, but so much time had passed before it would actually happen, that I wonder if maybe God’s people “said” they hoped and believed it would happen (because that’s what they were supposed to hope and believe), but had long since “lived” as if it were never going to happen.
I wonder if they began to place their hope in things other than the Messiah to fill their void – things like a happy marriage, healthy kids, a good job, or a government that favored their opinions.
Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem just as Micah had prophesied, and about 30 years later, He was baptized by His cousin John, He called His disciples together, and He taught about God’s love and God’s Kingdom while doing miracles for 3 years. The hopes of many of God’s people—at least the non-religious ones—had been renewed.
As the hopeful crowd celebrated by throwing down palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna!” (which would be like us shouting, “Lord, save us!”) surely they imagined their Messiah to be a ruler who would make their daily lives easier, and who would end their suffering, and who would wipe out their enemy—the mean Roman government. But their expectations were a bit off.
A bit way off.
Within just hours, there was Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, a faulty trial, and a horrendous crucifixion. Their hearts and their hopes were splattered.
Hope was dead.
This week, in the midst of great-celebration-turned-great-disappointment in just one area of my life, as I tried to think happy thoughts, my mind kept drifting to just how devastated those closest to Jesus must have been the day He was laid in the tomb. All their hope that had blossomed over the previous three years now lay dormant in a tomb being guarded by the enemy’s soldiers.
I can’t even imagine their misery. Their grief. Their questions.
What do we do now?
Were we foolish to believe in and follow Him?
How could a loving God let this happen?
As I thought of the hurting disciples, I wanted to go back in Doc Brown’s time machine and tell them, “Wait! The story’s not over! Don’t lose hope! He’s not gonna STAY dead! In just a few short days, the Savior will rise again, conquering death and the grave!”
And rise, He did.
The resurrection changed everything. The tomb was empty. Jesus had conquered death. Hopelessness turned to celebration. Anxiety turned to peace. Doubt turned to trust. Religion turned to relationship. Lack of purpose turned to a mission worth dying for.
I wrote that last paragraph sincerely believing and clinging to every word of it in my head. And maybe I should just end this post here with a big Easter “Hip Hip Hurrah!” praying and trusting that my heart will soon FEEL these reactions to the truths as much as my head THINKS them.
And maybe I should have waited more time to completely heal from the heartache of last week’s disappointment before writing, but just maybe it might help someone to watch me “wrestle” through the pain while asking,
“I know that believing in Jesus and His resurrection will give me eternal life with God when I die, but what difference does or should the resurrection have for me today when I’m hurting?”
“Wrestle” is the key word. Here are three resurrection truths I’m wrestling to keep front and center in my heart and mind this week.
#1 HE is the Resurrection.
John 11:25 Jesus told her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. (NLT)
Jesus said that He was the actual resurrection. He pointed to Himself and not to a program or a process. That reminds me that if I want my joy (or hope or peace) to be resurrected, I will find it in Him. In who He is, not in what I do. I want to cling to Him more. I want to WANT Him more.
For the 23 hours we had Benjamin, nothing else was more important. I didn’t even think about the sump pump that needed to be fixed, the bald car tires that need to be changed, or our taxes that still need to be filed. Granted, we would’ve had to think about them eventually, but those items along with other smaller “worries” that were stealing my joy the days before, weren’t even on the radar. That happens when you’re awestruck with something much more beautiful that’s right in front of you.
Jesus, I want to be way more awestruck with You. Fill my heart and mind with Your praise. Help me to let go of stuff that steals my time away from just being in awe of You. Amen.
#2 His power is our power.
Ephesians 1:19-20 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (NLT)
He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us, and comfort us, and He has given us His resurrection power to carry out what His Spirit teaches us and what His Word teaches us. As I contemplate this, I think, “Now that’s unlimited power!” And so I ask myself,
“How much power is needed to believe the best and hope for the best for Ben’s guardians?”
“How much power is needed to rejoice with those who rejoice when I’m hurting?”
“How much power is needed to encourage my husband who’s hurting too?”
“How much power is needed to remind myself of all the times God has been faithful and the zero times He’s been unfaithful?”
He’s given me the power. I just need to use it.
#3 We can trust His sacrificial love.
Ephesians 2:4-6 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (NLT)
There was Benjamin, this 4 pound 11 ounce little burrito that was sure to make us lose money, lose sleep, and lose freedom in our schedule. He couldn’t do ANYTHING for us, and yet we were smitten by him, and were ready to give up everything for him.
And for the first time, I got a greater glimpse of the love of our Heavenly Father, who is way richer in mercy than my mind can comprehend. God’s willingness to send His Son, and Jesus’ willingness to die a cruel death, and their power to pull it off and defeat death to demonstrate their love for us—these truths fill my heart with a gratitude that I hope will always outweigh any disappointment or even legit suffering this temporary world throws my way. The more I reflect on this sacrificial love, the more my heart is healed by it.
Lord, please help me to hide these truths in my heart. Help me to cling to You. Help my gratitude grow for Your once-and-for-all sacrifice that You made out of great love for me. Help me to remember that You have given me all kinds of power that I just need to use. Help me to introduce Your love and power to others who have gone and are going through much tougher trials than mine. Thank you for showing me that even in the midst of that first Good Friday, the story was no way near over, and the best was yet to come. Amen.