Friday, April 14, 2017

Lingering With the Loss


He was arrested on Thursday evening. Then came the trials, little more than sham proceedings, because the decision had already been made. 

The troublemaker had to go. Jesus had stirred up the people too much already. 

Little did the Sanhedrin know... the stirring had only just begun.

After the trials came the scourging, which was worse than any beating we can imagine. Metal was embedded in the leather straps with which He, who was so full of mercy, was whipped unmercifully. 

I usually forget about the cistern at Caiaphas' house, but it was a part of the horror, too. 

Somewhere between the trials and beatings and crucifixion, rough ropes were tied around our Savior and He was lowered into a giant stone holding cell. It was there, naked, bleeding, betrayed, denied, exhausted and, in His humanness, probably terrified of the next few hours, that Jesus laid on the ground and waited.

He was waiting to redeem the world by defeating sin and death.

Songwriters like to say, "He was thinking of me," but that's only Western arrogance talking. Are we really so prideful that we believe Jesus looked through eternity to see us, sinners in need of the grace He was pouring out, while He was half-dead on the floor?

No. I doubt that version of events. The terror and torture weren't that romantic. 

I think He was doing what He'd done in the garden a few hours earlier. Still praying, "Not My will, but Thine be done."

If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus could have summoned an army of angels to release Him and wreak havoc on all of Jerusalem with Sodom-and-Gommorah-style destruction. 

Staying in place, going the distance was an act of His will.

He didn't have to stay for the cross, but He did.

I wonder where his mother was during His time in Caiphas' stone hole. I'd have been in a corner of the courtyard, waiting to see what terror would come next, praying that God would miraculously intervene. 

I'd have pondered the words of the angel more than three decades earlier...

"Hail, favored one. The Lord is with you...
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever...
For nothing will be impossible with God..." 
                                 Luke 1:28, 33, 37

I'd have been filled with questions, and Mary probably was, too. If nothing is impossible with God, where is He now? What kind of reign is this, God? 

At some point, the prophecy of Simeon in the temple when Jesus was just a baby in her arms must have come back to her. 

"And a sword will pierce your own soul..."
                 Luke 2:37

During that long night, as they waited for dawn, Mary must have felt that sword piercing over and over again.

First light finally came, and the crucifixion began. 

Jesus was lifted out of the pit. The cross was strapped onto Him and He was forced to walk down the hill from Caiphas' house, across the Kidron valley, and probably through the streets of Jerusalem, to Golgatha. 

It's a long, hard walk when you've been beaten nearly to death and you're carrying a cross, but He did it. Finally, Simon the Cyrene was drafted to help with the cross, but Jesus did the walking alone.

When it didn't seem like it could get any worse, it did. 

Along the roadside by Golgatha, where everyone entering Jerusalem would see Him, Jesus was secured to the wooden beams and the base of that torturous wooden cross was lowered into the ground. 

Jesus and His cross were lifted into the air. He was visible for miles around.

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, 
will draw all people to myself." 
John 12:32 niv

His followers probably remembered what He'd said and wondered, "How can He draw men to Himself now?"

It was the longest day of their lives, for Jesus and His followers. He was in agony. Real, unrelenting, gut-wrenching agony. It was horrid to watch but even more horrid to experience.

God suffering at the hands of the men and women He'd loved...

Before that day came to an end and the Sabbath began, Jesus died. All the hopes and dreams of followers who thought He would be king died with Him. 

And then the tomb...

That's where Good Friday, the blackest day in history, ends. We can only call it Good because we know what comes after, but, for today, let's hold here in the agony. 

Let's linger with the loss.

Perhaps, if we pause long enough to comprehend that most terrible day, we'll be better prepared to celebrate what's coming, more thankful for what He did.

Sunday's coming... but first, the cross.
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