(Disclaimer: This is something I wrote [and posted here] 3 years ago. But I was rereading it, and decided that it was, once again, most appropriate. Besides, a couple of you might have missed it the first time around. Hence the re-post…)
I sat beside my mother’s grave this morning. I don’t know how many years it has been since I’ve been there. Somehow it seemed appropriate, today of all days – the day when we celebrate (an odd word choice at first glance) the death of Jesus. I sat beside my mother’s grave and remembered. I sat there and missed her. I felt her absence, even there, because even though her body was buried there, SHE was no longer there.
As I think of death and bodies and absences, my mind turns again to today – Good Friday.
It seems difficult, if not impossible, to look back thousands of years, and imagine what that first “Good Friday” must have been – must have felt like – to the friends and family of the murdered man. I read the stories about the betrayal and death of Jesus from the perspective of the Resurrection. I look at Friday through the lens of Easter. And in doing so, I miss much of the pathos and the reality in what happened. In my mind, Jesus’ death has none of the power that my mom’s death had, or the deaths of my friends on the street. That’s because, in my mind, my mom and Miriam and Jeferson and Tiago and Everton’s deaths were all REAL. The effects are lasting. They are gone. I still miss them. Somehow, when seen only through Sunday’s events, Jesus’ death is transformed into something fake – a pretend death. But nothing could be further from the truth. Only when we enter into the brokenness and the anguish of that first Friday can we begin to understand the joy and hope of that Sunday.
On Friday, Jesus was dead. He was tortured. He was mocked. He was killed. He was dead. He stopped breathing. He stiffened up. His body grew cold. He was GONE. His loved ones watched, helpless. His mother and friends wept. They wept because they had lost their son, their friend, their brother, their hope. They believed, but their belief had betrayed them, left them hung out to dry.
Jesus’ lifeless body was taken from the cross. His stiffening corpse was carried to the tomb, prepared for burial, and then placed inside. Those who hadn’t run away in fear bent over and kissed his cold forehead with their warm lips as tears slid down their faces. When the tomb was shut, there was all the finality of the earth being thrown on my mother’s coffin, or the casket lid being tightened over Jeferson’s stillness. He was gone.
Feel the hopelessness. Savor the despair. Soak up the fear, the hurt, the betrayal, the numbness. For everything has changed. Where hope existed, now lies doubt. A few nights before, joy and love and laughter and life filled this room. Tonight, it is only ashes and dust, tears and mourning. His absence is everywhere. There is no escape. The vine has been ripped from the ground, and the branches are withered and dying. The shepherd has been killed and the sheep are scattered and helpless. The center could not hold.
This is the bitter cup of death. Jesus drank his own death down to the dregs. His friends, his disciples, drank it too. For each different, yet for each the agony and heartache and fear is the same. No one understood. All they knew was they missed him, and he was gone. Everything had changed.
So many people have said it so much better than I can. But, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to jump in and say it all again – less eloquently perhaps, but no less heartfelt.
I’m not really sure where we go from here. On Friday I talked about entering into the pathos of Jesus’ death. Sunday is supposed to be a day of joy and awe. He is ALIVE! Jesus, who was dead, is dead no more. He lives. He breathes. The heart that grew still and cold beats once more. The blood that thickened in his veins now runs warm and fast. His toes crinkle. He sneezes. His chest rises and falls. He begins to sweat and itch and be hungry and thirsty. It’s too much for me to take in.
Why is that? I think it’s because I want it to be true so badly. But, I am afraid of getting hurt. I am afraid of fully committing to this belief because I fear what it will try and draw out of me. I hesitate and hem and haw and commit to it 80 percent… Keeping that bit in reserve so I can try and keep my heart safe. I want Jesus’ resurrection to be true. I believe it is. But I can’t imagine what it looks like… I can’t imagine Jeferson standing up, laughing his laugh and smiling his smile and singing with his voice, and being stubborn and a brat and angry and hurt and tired and cold and happy and joyful and just so fully himself. I want to. But that hope seems so far away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see my mom walk into the room again – to hear her laugh with her entire body, to see the love in her eyes, to have her put her arms around me and feel like a little child again – to grin when she gets frustrated again, and be sad when I’ve disappointed her and to have her be her old self, before she got sick – to hear her scream when Dad would throw her in the water or watch her glow with righteous indignation and action when the poor, abandoned, and weak were left without an advocate, and were abused and exploited and taken advantage of… Oh, to see them again.
But all we were left with is memories. Only their absence is present. Until that day when Jesus came back to life, defeating death. Two thousand years ago, something changed. The disciples, who cowered in numb broken fear, received the scare of their lives. Their hope was dead. But all of a sudden, everything changed… He’s alive. He’s alive!
And in that hope of his resurrection, we know that death has been defeated. There is hope, not only for the life to come, but for this life now! His eternal, Kingdom life fills us in the here and now, transforming us into something beautiful – flawed and broken, yet being repaired – becoming who we were born to be… Because of Him we have hope. Because of who Jesus is – his beauty, his life, his death, his resurrection, his promises – we have hope. Because of him, everything has changed. And there’s no going back to the way things used to be.
He is risen, indeed.