(Originally posted on April 2, 2012)
The prelude to Easter is a most blessed time for Christians. We are now experiencing what is to come. These are essential things to reflect on as we consider the Pascal Mystery: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The sad reality is that we often get stuck with the Good Friday Jesus. If we allow that to happen, then Jesus becomes just another prophet, albeit a pretty good one. Love those parables! But then, God remains remote and irrelevant to our lives.
Do you suppose God just dropped Jesus off here and left him to fend for himself? If so, then why would I depend on him? I’ll get my card punched on Sunday, but for the rest of my life, I’ll just take care of myself. Thank you very much. I’ll come back to why that doesn’t work in a moment, but for now, let us consider these passages:
- “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the LORD,’ they say, ‘let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’” Psalm 22:7-8
- “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Those who hated Jesus so bitterly stood at the foot of the cross and scoffed at him, “Where’s this God of yours now? He doesn’t seem to be bothered about you”! Keep in mind that the belief of the Jewish people was based on punishment and reward. They were saying, in essence, “See, we are justified in crucifying you, Jesus, and God’s silence is proof of it. It was your own blasphemous sins that brought you to this end.”
There were lots of people standing near the cross that day: those who hated Jesus, those who loved him, and many others who did not know what to think about him. Everyone was waiting to see if God would show up. But he was silent then even when Jesus cried out to him. It was a justifying silence for Jesus’ accusers and murderers, a deafening silence for his followers, and a confusing silence for those who just weren’t sure.
Those who believed in Jesus, who put all their faith in him, were desperate for God to rescue them. They were hoping for retribution. So imagine how devastated they must have been when God was silent, and Jesus indeed died. As they walked away, their weariness was more than they could bear – hopes morphing into despair – mumbling under their breath, “Why didn’t you come, Lord? Why didn’t you save him? What are we to do now? If this Jesus was not the One, who then? How much more can we take”?
Sadly, for many of us today, faith is based on the same idea of reward and punishment. Think you’re going to heaven? Think again if you’re bad! (However you define bad.) Think you’re going to hell? Who knows? It’s a lifelong nail-biter, isn’t it? God is the proverbial Record Keeper. Add to that the concept of a God out in the stratosphere, distant and aloof, and it’s no wonder we feel lost in this crazy, God-forsaken world.
Ponder for a moment, if you will, how the above passages speak to your own life. That’s all I’ve been thinking about lately. Growing up, my family was of no faith. I only recall going to church once with my family, though a neighbor regularly took me to Sunday school. One Easter Sunday, we all had new outfits and paraded into my grandmother’s church.
I had no sense that God was there when my mother was physically abusive. He wasn’t there when I was being sexually abused. He wasn’t there when I was twenty-three and tried to commit suicide. He wasn’t there when I regularly drank myself into oblivion, or for too many other “got the T-shirt for that one” events in my life.
All of this pondering begs the question: Is God present to us or not? Does he care one lick about our day-to-day lives? Did he just dump us off here too? “There you go, Linda. Have a nice life. See you at the end – maybe – or not.” You will never have the answer to that question if you remain stuck with the Good Friday Jesus.
We must live our faith from the other side of the resurrection! That is the only place it is possible to view God’s immense love for us. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection point the way. In the moments that it feels like God is silent in our suffering, there is a reason far beyond what we can humanly understand. It is not God who is not present to us; it is us not present to him. Have you ever considered that? God is totally invested in you!
If you feel distant from him, it may be a good time to look at where you are in your faith. For me, those moments have always pointed to my being too caught up in things of this world to give God much thought. And truth be told, often, it is intentional because I know I am not where he wants me to be, and I don’t want to change. So there – I said it.
I can often be selfish and self-serving, and there is no room for God there. And then I get whacked with this passage, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24) How can I possibly enjoy my worldly pursuits when he’s watching – fuming perhaps? La la la la la – I can’t hear you! (I don’t recommend that – it has never worked well for me.)
My beloved friends in Christ, this is the time, if no other, when we are compelled to open the eyes of our hearts! There are two passages in Scripture I would offer you for your reflection as we near this blessed time of Jesus’ Passion:
Luke 19:41, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it….” When the crowds saw Jesus entering Jerusalem, they began singing praises.”
Why did he weep? Because he knew they still did not understand. They followed, praised, and put all their hopes in an earthly King. Jesus’ heart ached because God loved them so deeply that he was preparing to die for them, yet they could not comprehend the magnitude of that Love.
Matthew 27:50-54, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened….So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Do you see? God’s heart was torn apart for the love of his Son. Do you know why he was willing to suffer such pain? Because his heart ached for the love of you and me! How could you possibly think he doesn’t care? Perhaps you have never asked.