Agony & Ecstasy
And he (Jesus) knelt down and prayed saying ’Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done…’ And in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like drips of blood falling down to the ground.” - Luke 22:39-44
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you so… “ - Luke 24:5-6
“but if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:36
Our Lenten Journey is almost at its destination: the cross. Since Ash Wednesday, our study and re-flections have familiarized with the call of repentance and obedience to Jesus Christ as we have walked with him. We look forward to the events of Easter Week that we will take part in mourning and celebration. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the last supper, Judas’ betrayal, and the trial of Jesus lie ahead. The pur-pose of Lent is to focus our awareness; we all should experience the ups and downs, the agonies and ecsta-sies of Jesus’ road to Calvary. Think about what the cross represents. Besides being on churches, the cross is depicted everywhere in society, on jewelry, clothing, bumper stickers and more. Most people know that Jesus died on the cross. But have you ever asked yourself, is there more? There are cliché slogans in Chris-tianity such as: “Jesus died on the cross for me.” While this is not untrue, it is not the whole truth, or the whole message of the gospel. I was talking with several “spiritual people” recently, and they maintained that Jesus merely entered the world to experience suffering on our behalf. He died on behalf of a fallen world. One of them asked: “Why do they call Good Friday ’good’? How could the day Jesus Christ was crucified be called ’good’? To them, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was merely the ultimate expression of “man’s in-humanity to man.” In that scenario, a suffering God enters a fallen and suffering world, and becomes trapped in the suffering. Is God suffering with us and that’s it? Where is the notion of victory over death, victory over evil, and the victory over sin?
There is another misconception that has come to my attention: by his life and death, Jesus “identifies” with sinners. Again the statement is not untrue, but it is not the complete truth of the life, death and resur-rection of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 4, we are reminded that Jesus was tempted in every way, yet did not sin. So he understands the difficulties we endure in this life. But Jesus doesn’t merely identify with sin, he over-came it while transforming sinners! This clarification makes all the difference as a Christian.
Have you considered what happens next on your journey? What is the significance of Easter? What does the empty tomb mean? This is where most of the world misses the point about Jesus, salvation, and re-demption.
Consider what Paul says about the resurrection. What is his point in his letter to the church in Cor-inth? His message is in hypothetically negative terms: If the resurrection is untrue - a lie, then Jesus did not rise from the dead and no one is saved; therefore, our faith is useless and our lives are meaningless. Paul’s point is that the resurrection is the ultimate truth. The empty tomb which symbolizes the resurrection tells us that truth. In his letters, Paul’s use of the cross is synonymous with the resurrection; one cannot exist with-out the other and maintain meaning and purpose for our lives. We have a Risen King and a Wonderful God that has conquered sin, death and the Evil One.
As we come to the end of Lent and encounter the empty tomb, I encourage one and all to continue the journey. The cross ends our Lenten journey; the empty tomb begins our next journey. Are you ready? Do you want to begin anew? Now is the time to follow the Risen King!
He is Risen!