Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday remembrance

Today, we remember the sufferings of Christ. In the nonliturgical tradition in which I grew up, we went straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, straight from triumphal entry to triumph over death and the grave. Then a few years after college, I attended a Tenebrae service and learned to mourn the crucified Lord. Experiencing the pain of loss and disappointment magnifies the joy and hope and gladness of Easter morning. That's the feeling I try to recreate each year by watching Jesus Christ Superstar, which ends heartbreakingly with the death of Christ. Tonight, for the first time in several years I also attended a Tenebrae service. As my friends and I left the church with several hundred others, there was a hush, a reverential and somber silence that followed us to our cars and several blocks down the road after that.

The cross is painful and ugly, not good for polite conversation. And yet, Paul said that he was resolved to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified. There is something starkly real and necessary for us in the cross of Christ. Before He went to the cross, Jesus spent a tortured night in Gethsemane. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” On that night, Christ wept, pleaded with God, and sweat agonizing drops of blood. His sorrow was real, so real that we shy away from it. We don’t like to picture Jesus, prostrate and weeping. It’s uncomfortable and untidy. But God gives us this very vivid picture of our Lord to remind us that He knows the messy, unbeautiful reality of our sadness.

One of God's characteristics, part of who He is in His essence, is His omniscience. That's just a fancy word for "He knows everything." Everything that has ever happened to you and the people you love, everything going on in your life right now (yes, even that thing that you think no one knows about), every minute detail of your life and the lives of your children and their children and their children. He knows it all. He is familiar with your story. Nothing you tell Him takes Him by surprise. And because He Himself suffered and wept and pled with God and ultimately bowed His will in obedience to God the Father, Jesus gets your pain. He doesn't judge you or minimize you or think you should just get over it. He loves you too much to leave you in your sorry state, but He knows you're there and He offers a way out that He promises will not be too difficult to bear.

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