The cross does not have the final word
by Dave Ens
It’s terrifying to be forgotten. Imagine you’re a child walking through a mall, and you suddenly realize you’ve become separated from your parents. Or you’re an adult who walks into the house to find doors unlocked, lights on, TV blaring—but not a person anywhere. What if you’ve been left behind, forgotten? The fear is palpable.
Now let’s imagine the disciples as they witnessed the events of Passion Week, the last week of Jesus’ life, unfold in front of them. In the garden of Gethsemane, they watched as the man they had served for three years was taken away without even a fight.
As much as we may judge the disciples for running away and deserting Jesus in his hour of need, part of us understands the fear that comes from seeing everything you’ve lived for—everything you’ve based your future on—taken away. The reason behind the disciples’ existence suddenly vanishes. They are left behind. Forgotten. And then to stand and watch Jesus die on a cross … surely, all is lost!
The great irony is that this day, this dark Friday, is one we call Good. Although it’s a day we come face to face with Jesus hanging on the cross—bruised, beaten, bloodied—it’s good because it reminds us that God will not forget us or leave us alone, just as he refuses to forsake his Son. The Father doesn’t leave Jesus in the bonds of death but raises him back to life, exalts him and gives him a name above all others. The cross is not the final word. Easter is on its way!
Raised to life
John 11 tells the story of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Word is sent to Jesus that Lazarus is ill. Although he loves this family dearly, Jesus stays away a little longer, and Lazarus dies. We can only imagine how forgotten Mary and Martha feel, like no one cares about their situation—even the one who could do something about it!
When Jesus finally arrives, Martha is dejected: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). But Jesus is clear: Even though you think you were forgotten, even though this seems to be the end, even though death seems final, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (v. 25).
Then Jesus walks to the tomb of his dead friend and cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43). What was once dead becomes alive. What once seemed forgotten is made new by God’s love.
There are times we feel alone, dead in our spirit. There are times we feel oppressed by bad choices or circumstances, when life takes more out of us than we have. There are times we look at the condition of our world—the violence, injustice, hatred—and cry out like the children of Israel, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me” (Isa. 49:14).
But, no matter how alone or forgotten we may feel, God can reach into our situation and turn it into life. No matter how “dead” we may be, no matter how far we’ve strayed from God, no matter how many layers of grave clothes are wrapped around us, no matter how bad we smell—we’re never too far away from God.
Easter morning reminds us we have a Savior, a brother, a King, who hears us and replies, “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:15-16). The hope of the resurrection is that God will never forget or abandon us. In raising Jesus from the dead, God shows us there’s nowhere we can go to escape his life-giving, life-changing love.
“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isa. 43:4-5).
Dave Ens is pastor of One88, a church community that seeks to create space for people to meet Jesus in downtown Winnipeg, Man. One88 is a campus of Eastview Community Church in Winnipeg. This essay was first published in the April 2012 issue of MB Herald, the publication of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches.
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