Hope. It’s what we all need a little more of these days. With the dawning of a new year comes an opportunity for new beginnings. If you haven’t done so yet, take some time over the next couple of days to dream of what the coming year could be like. You’ll want to start by taking a look back to learn from what worked and didn’t last year.
Remember that a new year beginning marks time for everyone in the same way. Nearly everyone is talking about their new year’s resolutions or goal setting strategies. Our faith journeys, on the other hand, are all on a different schedule. Here’s a Bible verse to reflect on: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” When we belong to Christ, we get a fresh start at life. We are forgiven and free!
Surprise! Well, it shouldn’t have really been a surprise, but it was. It was early in the morning. The women had prepared the spices a day ago. Jesus’ body would be starting to smell already, so they had no time to waste. But when they arrived, Jesus body was not where it was supposed to be. What happened? The confusion, the fear, the anger, the surprise. What would you have been feeling if it had been you to happen upon the tomb that morning with a purpose in mind only to have your world turned upside down?
Then it happens: the a-ha moment. While they were cowering in fear because of these strange, dazzling looking men that appeared, they heard the message of reassurance. “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” It may have taken a moment or two to really sink in. What had they just heard? Talk about a pivot!
Jesus had died. There was an emptiness to the world that was hard to describe. A loneliness that seemed to have no end. How could life go on as usual? Imagine the despair that was coupled with fear. I imagine the disciples thought they might be next because of their associations with Jesus. Did any of Jesus’ friends remember his words that he would rise on the third day? For today, let’s also put that knowledge aside. Like Jesus’ followers then, let us be lost in our grief.
Then there was Joseph. A secret follower of Jesus. He had a position on the high council of all things. What would the others think of him now? He boldly came forward and asked for Jesus’ body. He took great care to place Jesus in a fresh tomb. His respect was evident. He had put his reputation on the line here. What would the fallout for that be? Joseph didn’t care. He had been waiting for the Kingdom of God. He had found Jesus, the King himself.
They call this Good Friday. What Jesus did for us is definitely good, but what the people did to Jesus is horrendous and mortifying. Doesn’t that contrast make it all the more powerful? The emotions that are swirling around as we read these texts can take our breath away. When it’s a familiar story like this, it can be even harder to really put yourself back in the moment. Close your eyes and picture the scene. Can you just about hear the mocking in the soldier’s voices? They were truly possessed by the evil one and totally blinded to the Son of God standing before them.
Even on our most difficult day, we have not endured such brutality. We cannot begin to imagine what it felt like to be beaten, spit on, jeered at, and then forced to carry a heavy cross to Calvary’s hill. I remember testing for black belt and feeling totally drained and beaten up after that. I wasn’t sure I could walk to the car to drive home. It was the most brutal thing I have ever done. In the midst of that test, I questioned everything I had ever known, been taught, and practiced. I had to be on alert even though my dripping sweat was burning my eyes. My spirit fought through every test. I remember calling on God many times to give me just what I needed for the next trial. I didn’t die. I was not even close to dying. When I think of Jesus’ torture I can only weep. His purpose for going through all that was for me. Because he loved me.
What a roller coaster of emotions. As we spend quiet time together today it’s time to really focus in on Jesus’ final hours with his friends, those closest to him. Jesus knew all along this day was coming, yet now that it is here there was so much to say. His disciples still didn’t seem to understand fully the importance of what was about to unfold. We can see clearly, yet do we still grasp what is happening? We’ve read the words, but what is happening in our hearts?
Each of these passages reveals something we can hold on to as we journey through our own dark night. There are beautiful promises. How often have we questioned something happening our lives, in our world? Jesus’ words in John, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” Like Thomas, we’re still not sure, we want more assurance, more information. Jesus calms our fears when he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Jesus is our answer. When the tempests of life try to overwhelm us, we need only rest in these words. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who does know. Now we can find peace in the Father.