At least as early as the Friday before Palm Sunday, a church up the road from us posted John 11:25-26 on its sign. In that passage, Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.”

While every Sunday in Lent is considered a “little Easter,” I was bothered by the timing of the message. The church is not a liturgical one, and thus does not observe Lent, but surely they would know something about Holy Week or at least Good Friday. Why would they rush to Easter in such a way, skipping over the crucifixion and the suffering of Jesus? I’m certain the preacher often spoke of how “Jesus died for our sins.”

Maybe the congregation was trying to offer a little hope in a world of constant war, economic uncertainty, joblessness, greed, violence, abuse, brokenness, hunger, and on and on. Do we really need one more instance of grief and suffering, namely the death of Jesus, to think about? And the church was right in its strategy insofar as the gospel word is never complete without the word of resurrection that reminds and assures us of the ultimate triumph of God over all the forces that deform and destroy human life.

But skipping over Good Friday, rushing to resurrection, does not help us in our suffering. Instead, we need to meditate on the terrible events of this day, because they remind us that God in Jesus Christ knows our troubles, has endured the worst oppressive governments and threatened religionists can do, and goes with us even to death. He has known loneliness and sorrow in the experience of betrayal and desertion by friends. He has even been subject to that ultimate suffering: godforsakenness, the sense that we are utterly alone with no one to help.

And Good Friday calls us to stand in solidarity with the suffering of our world just as Jesus did. It’s a summons to mission, to love as servants to our neighbors, to give of ourselves in sharing and sacrifice. Maybe when it comes down to it, that’s why someone might want to rush to Easter, with its bright and joyous message of victory and new life. Discipleship is not easy, and we obey One who, before he was exalted and sat down at the right hand of God, endured the cross and grave. He bids us daily take up our cross and follow him. 

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

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