With Good Friday in the rearview mirror we find ourselves at another junction between death and life even and though the events of Good Friday happened over two centuries ago the effect, the cause, the results just as pertinent as they were as they actually happened.
As I try as best I can to reconnect with the events as they actually happened I found myself struggling to do so. For some reason especially at this time of the year I keep coming back to Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” particularly the scenes of Jesus’ horrific beating and his struggle on the Via Dolorosa as he made his way to Calvary. My struggle isn’t with the terrible sacrifice and horrendous pain Jesus endured on Good Friday it’s the powerfully charged emotions Mel Gibson’s movie incites in me.
While Jesus himself experienced powerfully charged emotions he was not an emotional person – Jesus was, is, and always will be a spiritually charged person/Savior/Prince of Peace/Son of God in my life. Good Friday MUST be put in relationship with Resurrection Sunday and in order for that to happen at Jesus intended level it to be we MUST experience them as emotional people but as spiritual people. Jesus in the 6th chapter of John said, “It is the Spirit that gives life…” If that is true (and experience tells me it is) then it is with the Spirit we MUST experience Good Friday with and not our emotions.
It is what Jesus did for us on the cross and what God did for me in Jesus’ tomb that are most important and not what Jesus endured during his trial and while on the cross as important as his trial and suffering were. By trial and error, I have discovered I can experience Jesus through my emotions but emotions are always wavering and they will not hold up when the storms in life arise. Jesus lived his life with God with ultimate intimacy I can’t even conceive of Jesus living and enduring life as he did with just a simple emotional (not that emotions are ever simple) relationship with God. Jesus’ ultimate purpose/goal is, was, and will be that you and I not just know God but to have and experience an intimate relationship with God.
For me the Good Friday experience is all about touching and being touched. As I’ve already stated when “The Passion of Christ” symbolizes for me an emotional touch that crushes me almost to the point where I cannot get past it. However, when I do manage to wiggle and squirm my way out of the emotions I find myself being touched at deep in my heart empowering me to the extent I make a 180 turn and walk toward the Light. One of my favorite scenes in the bible comes follows Jesus’ resurrection. While Thomas was with the disciples, Jesus suddenly appears and invites him to touch the wounds in his hands and side. The power for me in the scene is not just when Thomas touched Jesus’ wounds but when the wounds touched Thomas. It was not what Jesus endured for me that touches me ultimately and intimately but his resolve to keep going when I no doubt would have “thrown in the towel.”
I have never witnessed a crucifixion. From what I do know about crucifixion it was all about touching. The only person I have a relationship with who has any experience at crucifixion is Jesus and even though many people have written and illustrated about what Jesus experienced (any they’re probably right) Jesus has never said a word. Even when they were beating him, even when the weight of the cross threw him to the ground, even as the nails were going into the soft tissue of his wrists he was silent. I have no experience with crucifixion but I have experienced the pain of the beatings that from come of the circumstances of life. I have experienced the weight of the cross and the slivers of wood from it as I’ve struggled with my journey with Jesus and my life as a Christian in a world becoming more and more anti-Christian. I’ve never felt the cold iron of nails in my flesh but I have felt the stabbing pain of rejection. No, I’ve haven’t experience with crucifixion but I have experience in feeling many of my dreams die.
Even though Jesus remained silent throughout the entire crucifixion experience there can be little doubt that he wasn’t touched not only emotionally, physically, and spiritually. For me the evidence of the touch of Jesus being crucified came at two different times.
“Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” It has been said that Jesus was forgiving the soldiers who were killing him, and while that may be true it is also just as true to me that Jesus’ words of forgiveness touch me deep in my heart.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” Can there be any more welcoming words than those? Can there be any more powerful encouragement than to be touched by a promise from Jesus to be with him for eternity? At the point of his deepest need Jesus as close to death as he could be met the criminal hanging next to him his deepest need, the need to live.
As the nails went through the soft flesh of Jesus’ wrists their touch to him was not a touch of pain but as a touch of heaven. Even when Jesus momentarily felt as if God had deserted him at the same time God was pulling His Only Begotten Son closer than ever before (if that were possible).
As emotionally painful as Good Friday is for me its touch offers me hope at multiple levels. And the greatest touch of Good Friday isn’t the touch of the cross, isn’t the touch of the crucifixion, it’s the touch I receive when I realize Jesus has made it possible for me to experience the presence of God in and through my life.
Have you ever had the opportunity to see paradise? I have and whether you know it or not you have too. But it didn’t have pearly gates, it didn’t have streets of gold, it isn’t an endless retirement community. Paradise is Jesus’ empty tomb.
For me there is one more thing Good Friday is and when I stop to think about all the things Good Friday is and all it stands for this may be the most important. Good Friday is an invitation. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” Jesus prayed. Good Friday is Jesus’ invitation for us to pray, “Father, into your hands I commit not only my emotions but more importantly my spirit.” And then in the morning of Resurrection Sunday the open tomb is the Father’s way of saying, “Yes, I will receive all of you.”
And now with the Lenten Season and Good Friday in the rearview mirror and Resurrection Sunday just a few hours away I find myself at the junction of death and life. John the Baptist when asked about Jesus said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” The same thing needs to happen between our emotional experiences and our spiritual experiences. If we discipline ourselves to push into the background our emotional response and increase our spiritual response to EVERY experience with the Divine we will find our lives built on the Rock of Ages.
One last thought – Just because Lent 2013 is months away there’s no time like this time to begin preparing for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday 2013.
Grace and PEACE,