I don’t want to celebrate Easter. I want to go look for Easter Eggs, spend time with family and wear a pretty dress. But I don’t want to celebrate Easter because I doubt the goodness of Good Friday.
When Luke describes the women standing at a distance, watching their LORD die, I feel their agony. Until they met Jesus, these women were second-class citizens, cloistered in their homes.
Jesus saw Mary’s heart and freed her from the gender role society had prescribed. He met Martha’s grief with love. He accepted the gift of the prostitute with humility restoring her self-worth. He touched a woman, whose affliction had left her untouchable. He invited these women into the dream that his kingdom was coming.
The kingdom he promised was the one foretold by Isaiah, who sang, “Sing barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband…You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband – LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.” They had given their lives to Jesus, believed in his promises, and then they were forced to watch their hope fade away.
To celebrate Easter, I must believe that this was good. Intellectually, I understand that Jesus had to die, he had to descend into hell to defeat death. But the pain of that experience seems to contradict that it was good.
I can see God’s kingdom. I’ve experienced its goodness, and yet I also see the chains of the world. Because I live in a world of the not yet, good Friday leaves me standing on the hill with the women watching what must take place, dumbfounded, confused and to hurt to cry.
This world’s pain is splashed across the front pages of our newspapers - a Sacramento man is shot when he goes to visit his grandmother, children are gunned down in schools, adults bully kids on social media platforms – and the pain creeps into our lives – our neighbors struggle to put food on their tables, eighty percent of all moms struggle with depression and our friend’s children lie in hospital beds. The pain of the world is inescapable.
Despite the pain, I believe that God’s kingdom has come, because I have experienced it. I have met Jesus. I’ve experienced his healing love. I’ve seen his people usher in his kingdom and I’ve given my life to see his kingdom brought here.
In juxtaposition to God’s love, the pain of the world is overwhelming. How can both the goodness of God’s kingdom and the evilness of our world both be a reality?
That is the difficulty of good Friday. It’s not just the celebration of the passion of Christ. Good Friday forces us to come face to face with the reality that Jesus came as a suffering Messiah and invites us into suffering.
Like the women who traveled with Jesus, I want a conquering Messiah. I want a Messiah who will ride in on a white horse and cut the chains of injustice. I want him to walk into Congress and demand that our government addresses the explicable poverty that our country faces. I want Jesus to audibly rebuke the men who use scripture to hold women down. I want Jesus to walk into every NICU and physically heal every baby. I want Jesus to conquer the world by force.
But Jesus isn’t a Messiah made after my own desires of him. He is the suffering Messiah. He conquered death, by dying.
Intellectually I know that the story is good because Jesus has risen. But that doesn’t push away the pain of now. Nor should it. Because like the woman, I’m invited into suffering with him.
Luke writes, “Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandments.” Like the women who traveled with Jesus, I’m invited into obedience, especially when I don’t understand.
I am invited to be obedient to love this world, even when it feels evil. I’m invited to have hope even when it feels hopeless. I’m invited to believe that Jesus rose, even when the pain of his death feels crushing.
While my heart longs for a Messiah that didn’t have to suffer, I will obediently stand on the hill waiting for the promise of his kingdom.