I wish I could slow this week down. Easter Sunday will be here soon enough, but you and I need Good Friday first.
The chronic suffering all around us reveals it’s true.
Sunday proclaims the hope of resurrection, but when we rush past Jesus’ crucifixion, our hope becomes too small to carry the real weight of the world in which you and I live.
Good Friday, entering into the crucifixion, sharing in Christ’s suffering (Romans 8:35-37, 1 Corinthians 4:10-11, Philippians 3:8-11), leads the way to resurrection.
And oh, we need resurrection. We need it so much, so tangibly, so actively, in fact, that we dare not hurry past Good Friday.
A couple I know spent six months last year praying nearly 24-7 in the hospital room of a woman the doctors said wouldn’t live a week. This husband and wife believe in the resurrection and so, in a very real way, they entered into their own season of sacrifice in prayer for another. (She walked out of the hospital earlier this year.)
Last fall, I met an elderly pastor and his wife who trained to become foster parents so they could take in the baby of a drug-addicted young woman who intermittently visited their parish. That baby girl is now a teenager and still living with them. Her mom is also still in their lives, and still battling her addictions. Reflecting on his situation, the pastor said, “This is not how I envisioned my retirement.”
He and his wife are allowing the fabric of their lives to take the shape of Jesus’ suffering for another. They are choosing to live for resurrection rather than for retirement.
I know moms and dads who have walked long with their own kids through mental illness, addictions, and other chronic problems. I remember one adult daughter talking about the morning her dad found her half-asleep on a couch the morning after yet another drug-infused party. She still doesn’t know how he found her there, but she remembers how he gently kissed her forehead before placing a warm breakfast sandwich beside her and turning to go.
Each of these is an example to me of living a cruciform life—a life that is taking the shape of the crucifixion because of the hope of resurrection.
Without taking up our own cross and following Jesus (Luke 14:27), without letting the days of our lives become increasingly cruciform in nature, we reveal our own lack of belief in the reality of the resurrection (no matter what we profess on Easter Sunday).
It’s easier just to pray from a distance or not to pray at all. It’s easier to assume healing won’t come. It’s easier to think someone younger or more qualified will do it. It’s easier to box Christianity into a Sunday service, a ten percent tithe, and morning devotions where resurrection becomes a metaphor for achieving a bit of the American dream.
Sunday without Friday leaves the terminal dying, the sick hurting, the sinners returning to their sin, the mourners grieving alone. Skipping over Good Friday means leaving Jesus Himself sick, sinful, and alone on the Cross (Matthew 25:45).
I know the difference others’ cruciform living has made in my broken and hurting life, so I’m talking to myself here.
The hope of Easter is not some kind of confetti to throw from a distance at the sick, sinful, and suffering. “It’ll be okay! Happy Easter!” The hope of Easter is entering into the death that Jesus died for the whole world on Good Friday, it’s actively taking on a cruciform life because sickness, sin, suffering, and death need no longer intimidate us.
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