As I celebrated Holy Week, I found myself pondering the same things I seem to do each year. There is almost a dark “real time” anticipation of the events that transpired over 2000 years ago. I meditate and imagine what the week must have been like. I imagine the lingering excitement from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the great hope that gripped the hearts of the crowd. I imagine the celebration as the crowds gathered for the Passover.
But I also imagine the thoughts that must have been going through the minds of the disciples in the upper room and eventually on Golgotha. Messiah had finally come. The Roman yoke of oppression was just about to be cast off and Jesus was going to lead the way. “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” But then things begin to radically change and unravel with the washing of some dirty feet and the eating of a meal. Jesus began to speak of death and defeat. Visions of hope began to morph into shadows of despair. Good Friday was approaching.
Hearts began to sink. Anxiety levels escalated. Tears formed. It appeared to be the end of the line as Jesus unfolded the details of what was to come. As he predicted, He was arrested and beaten. He was rejected by the same people who celebrated His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Finally, on Good Friday, He was nailed to a cross, breathed His last breath and uttered “it is finished.” He died. He was taken down from the cross and buried. From all practical perspectives, it was over and as Jesus’ disciples gathered together on that Sabbath before the Resurrection, the pain, fear and grief must have been overwhelming.
Was it really finished? Good Friday and Holy Saturday did not carry with them the anticipation, preparation and joy that they do for us today. For them, it appeared there was nothing to look forward to, except the same possible fate that met their friend. “Jesus is dead! We’re next! You’re going to get your wish, Peter! Believe what you want, Thomas! But your doubting body will be hanging on a cross by sundown!”
“Where did things go wrong,” they must have thought. “How did we misinterpret what Jesus had been telling us over the last three years,” they must have asked themselves. “Were we totally misled?” “Are we all fools?” “Was our mission with Jesus a complete failure?” FAIL! Their feet were clean, but their minds were cloudy as they waited. The anxiety must have felt like the weight of the world; fear, rejection. anger. confusion. All these emotions must have been running wild as they mourned the death of their Rabbi: their leader and friend. From the view of the world, this must have appeared to be the perfect failure.
Well, you know the rest of the story and time doesn’t permit me to go on and on with the thoughts that flood my mind this morning, but I encourage you to ponder these things as well for one very simple reason. There appears to be two sides to this story, as with every story. One side tells us that this was in fact, a perfect failure. This side leaves Jesus in His tomb and leaves the disciples defeated, broken, dejected, afraid (and probably eventually dead). The other side of the story is victorious: renewal, transformation, resurrection power. The power that took these eleven broken men that cowered in fear and used them to transform the world. He is risen! This was not a perfect failure, but complete victory!
As we observe Good Friday, each of us stands on the cusp of the breakthrough that changed humanity. From the perspective of Good Friday, and Good Friday alone, we live in a constant duality of existence. Good Friday leaves us in chaos, fear and defeat. Good Friday blows a cold wind of disunity, rejection and separation. Good Friday leaves us isolated, cowering in fear, feeling disconnected from God and humanity. There is a division that exists with Good Friday and it creeps in to pollute our communities, even with the realization of the Resurrection. Good Friday emphasizes our differences and conflicts, focusing on humanities demarcations, not the singularity through redemption.
As we walk through Good Friday, let us reflect on what Sunday will mean to us. Let us remind ourselves that the darkness of Good Friday will eventually be joined and obscured by the light of Easter Sunday. Easter brings order, peace and victory. Easter Sunday brings unity, acceptance and connection. Easter Sunday finds us in community with our fellow man, celebrating in courage as God’s cleansing Spirit flows through creation and mankind. There is a oneness that exists for us on Easter Sunday as we see that Christ’s victorious redemption applies to us all, without division. We are free to “Love one another” in unity, without the shadow of separation. (SeeJohn 13:34 &35)
But the question remains for us all: Are we living our lives in the shadow of Good Friday, or the brilliant light of Easter Sunday? Do we cower in the upper room, defeated, disconnected and absorbed with grief? Isolated? Alone? Filled with anger and hatred? He is risen, and if he is truly risen, then why do we not rise with Him? And if we truly rise with Him, do we not all rise together in complete unification? Do we not witness the all-encompassing covering of redemption-a redemption that breaks the division of Good Friday and brings unity, beauty and new life? This is the essence of the Easter story. Christ died for ALL so that ALL could experience freedom in complete purity. Despite differences in denomination, skin color, ethnicity, citizenship or legal status, we are united by the Resurrection. We are one in redemption.
Let us remember that this shadow will pass over. Let us look forward to the unity and completion of Sunday. Let our vision be encompassed with the vision of Resurrection, not death. Let us join together as the Body of Christ, embracing each other as we suffer. Let us carry each other’s burden through Friday and journey together in unity to Sunday. There exist so many factors to divide us, and a choice is laid before each of us. We can live in the shadow of Good Friday, seeing on the divisions in humanity, or we can view our lives through the beauty of redemption and behold we are in fact made one.
Jake Kampe is an associate pastor of small groups living in League City, Texas where he also trains and mentors small group leaders. He is also a freelance writer, currently working on his first book, Lost Passages: Jesus in the Grey and was most recently a contributing writer for The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living into God’s Kingdom and Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression. He has been married to his wife Kelly for 19 years, and has three boys: Ian (15), Lucas (9) and four legged son, Dexter (7). You can contact Jake on Facebook, Twitter or by visiting his blog at www.nakedtheologytalk.
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