In the weekend preceding Easter, I often find myself resting on the bloodstained ground at the foot of the cross. Not literally, of course. That would be hard to do, considering a couple millenia have passed by and, I assure you, I’m not that old. But meditatively.
Contemplatively. I rest there and remember what I have done to contribute to God’s sacrifice. What sins I’ve committed and unfortunately, still commit, that Jesus paid for with His life.
Yes. I’m aware that three days later He rose again, conquering death for good. And yes, I rejoice in that.
But sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t at least spend those three days, between remembering the cross and the resurrection, feeling just a bit as upset and put out as the Disciples must have felt when they saw Jesus hauled off to His death. Shouldn’t we cry half as hard as Mary did, when she watched her son be crucified?
How often do we find ourselves in the tension of hopelessness in our own lives? When we wreck our car and are waiting on the insurance money. Or when we get a call that a friend is in the hospital but don’t yet know how bad it is or if they will even recover. Just recently I got a call from my best friend, but when I answered, it wasn’t her voice. My heart dropped to somewhere by my knees and my palms started sweating. Even though it only took me a minute to learn what had happened (Yoga incident!), that minute was dreadful. Hopeless. Terrifying. A brief glimpse of what Joshua of Arimathea and Nicodemus, retrieving Jesus’ body from the cross for burial, may have felt.
With Jesus’ body, they buried their hope. They buried the years or months or days they had spent following Him, believing in Him. And for three days, it was exactly as it seemed. Jesus was dead.
I like to imagine how much love Jesus had for them–for us!–to stop any fighting that may have started in the garden and walk towards His cross alone. All the while knowing He would be sacrificed, much as the goats and lambs at the Temple, in substitution for our inherited sinfulness. God took it upon Himself, in the form of His son, to carry our burden to the cross. Not because He had to, but because it glorified Him. And because He loves us. And, possibly, because it allows us to more accurately reflect His glory back to Him.
In his book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott wrote this: “For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.” I believe it to be true. And because God saw fit to glorify Himself through the cross, I make sure to rest in that space. To remember why He did it and how I contributed to it. To imagine myself at the ground where Jesus died, crying tears along with Mary and Joshua and Nicodemus for three days of uncertainty. Or, rather, certainty that hope was dashed. And I do this because I know that after those three days, I get to celebrate what it was all about. A living, breathing Savior who reconciled me with God, gave me His Spirit, and promised to come again. In light of an eternity at the feet of a resurrected Jesus, three days at the foot of the cross, mourning my part in His death, isn’t a lot.