Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Reflections - Death is hopeless.

Yesterday we commemorated the death of Jesus.

Think of the horror of the disciples, not just the twelve, but the many who hoped or believed that Jesus was the One who would rescue them from the oppression of the Romans, who would restore the greatness of Jerusalem, who would lead them into a glorious, fulfilling life.

Their hopes dwindled as they saw Jesus arrested.  But surely he can save himself.  Or perhaps this is the moment when he will seize the kingdom?  Their hopes began to face as they saw him nailed to the cross.  And when he took his last breaths, those hopes evaporated.  Jesus wasn't going to save anyone.  He was dead.  Death is final, and as those brilliant Lost philosophers so poignantly put it, "Dead is dead."

This morning I woke up and wondered what the Saturday after the crucifixion was like for these disciples.
I imagine it's a little like when someone we love dies.

My dad died suddenly in November 2007.  One minute I was planning paint colors for my living room and going out to breakfast up in Oceanside.  Life was good.  And then I got a phone call from my brother saying my dad had died suddenly.  At work.  During chapel.

My eyes teared up when I spoke with my mom over the phone an hour later, but then numbness took over as I prepared to fly back to Colorado Springs the next day.

I didn't sleep well.  Whenever I woke, reality jarred my thoughts.  Daddy's dead.

I set goals to keep my mind off the loss.  At such and such a time, I thought, I'll get on a plan.  I'll comfort my mom.  I'll help plan the funeral.  I'll help Duane make driving plans with the kids.  I'll stay busy.

Everything changed.  And nothing changed.  
The sun rose and set.  People went about their lives.  My dad was gone.  I would not talk to him again.  I would never share books with him.  We would never reminisce about the past or dream about the future.  He would never hold my children's children.  

I think it was like that for the people of Jesus' time.  Obviously, some were glad that Jesus died.  These are the people who yelled, "Crucifixion."  Some didn't care.  They didn't concern themselves with political or religious matters.  Others mourned bitterly.

Everything changed.  And nothing changed.  

Nobody suspected what would happen on Sunday.  We know the whole story and so we miss the importance of Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter.  

In Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola remind us that every crisis we face "is a God-given opportunity to rediscover Christ in a bold new way" (151).  The crisis of Saturday led to the discovery of Easter.  Dead led to life.  

We face new crises, sort of mini-deaths, if you will, throughout our lifetime.  We struggle when we do.  We wonder, "Has God forgotten us?"  Why does he allow this?  

When Paul was suffering, Jesus told him, "My grace is sufficient for you."  And we nod with this Scripture, in theory.  When we experience those horrible crises, those mini- or not-so-mini deaths, we struggle.  

Sweet and Viola remind us that we should "be prepared to meet a God who seems to have the disturbing habit of leaving the scene when [we] most need Him.  This includes times when [we] are courting death and [our] life is hanging in the balance" (151).  Sometimes it feels like he has abandoned us.  That he doesn't care.  

And during those times, especially when we start to panic because those mini- and no-so-mini deaths threaten our safety, our stability, our lives or the lives of people we love, we must remember that Jesus is the resurrection and He is the life, and "if [we] endure, outwaiting [our] impatience for His timing, Christ will roll the stone away and raise [us] from the dead" (151).  

Jesus' death led to the resurrection, to redemption, to forgiveness of sins, to our adoption as children of God. Jesus death led to abundant life, to eternal life.  

But on Saturday the Saturday after Jesus died, nobody knew any of that.  Easter changed everything.  Easter defeated the finality of death and restored hope.  

Is today your Saturday? Easter is coming.  

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