"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand."
Isaiah 53:7-10 (NIV)
I woke up early this morning to the sound of a violent thunderstorm. There are more storms predicted this afternoon. The weather seems appropriate for remembering the blackest day in the relationship between God the Father and His precious Son, Jesus Christ. This day commemorates the one time in all of eternity that the two were separated.
By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross on a hill called Golgotha, he had endured enough sorrow to drive anyone mad. He had been forced to bear the burden of his sorrow alone because his disciples had failed to realize that His death was imminent. In between the anguish of pleading before the Father to let the cup of sorrow pass from Him, Jesus returned to three friends who had fallen asleep on Him. Haven't you and I experienced the bitter sorrow of having to walk through the darkness alone, when no other person on the face of this earth can share the burden of our pain? Jesus has been there, too!
It was in the same garden that one of the closest in His inner circle betrayed Him with a kiss. Judas Iscariot had sold his soul to Satan for thirty pieces of silver to hand over the One who could have been his Savior. Thirty pieces was an insulting amount of money for the deed committed. Have we ever been betrayed by someone we took into our inner circle? Perhaps there is nothing more crushing in the entire world because it kills trust and can rob us of friendships to come. Jesus has been there, too!
Christ was then led to a mockery of a trial. Justice was denied Him. Everything was out of order. Chaos reigned. And those whom Jesus had come to save rejected Him, spit on Him, mocked Him, and falsely accused Him. Rejection is one thing; it is a bitter, horrible pill to swallow. But being falsely accused makes most of us cry out in our defense. Jesus never did. He was looked at as a fool and a coward. He trusted Himself to His Father at that moment, knowing that the reward that was due Him was in His Father's hand.
What would happen if I could react the same way?
After the inquisition before the Roman official, Pontus Pilate, Jesus was scourged and beaten beyond recognition. And then He was forced to carry a cross on His mutilated back. Simon of Cyrene helped carry the beams of wood to which Christ was nailed to with rusty spikes. And He endured six hours of the wrath of God the Father as Christ who knew no sin became sin for you and me. The physical pain would have been enough, but the holiness of God demanded that He turn away from His Son in His most agonizing time of need. Does Jesus understand when we cannot cry hard enough over what has happened to us? When the gates of hell seemed to be unleashed against our souls and the whole world has turned against us? Yes, my beloved sisters, YES!
I am convinced that the darkest hours of our lives are the very setup for a resurrection of our souls. The badness of Good Friday gave way to the most glorious Sunday ever known to humankind. Death had to come to the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, or our sin would have no way of being forgiven. And, sweet friend, if there has been a death, physical or emotional, in our lives, there is a resurrection day coming! It is the nature of our God. Do you remember what the angel at the tomb asked the women early on that Sunday morning when they found an empty grave?
"...Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!..." Luke 24:5-6 (NIV)
We have been looking for Him in the wrong places! He is not in the deadness of the despair of our hearts. He is alive; He is risen! The badness of Good Friday is the place of hope. The anguish of our circumstances has already been borne in His body on that cross. Jesus took the wrath. We are given hope. Jesus is more than the Son of God--He is God. He has experienced all that causes us such despair and triumphed over it!
Because He lives, we can cling to the truth that the badness of our Friday will turn into the glory of resurrection Sunday.