By Keith Boyette
April 2, 2021
Suffering. Brokenness. Death. Struggle. Paralysis. Words all too familiar from the past year. Words that seem especially poignant in this Holy Week of 2021. As I reflect on Jesus’ journey especially in the events of the Upper Room, his arrest, trials before the religious council and Pilate, scourging, the mocking of the crowd, the journey to Golgotha, and his death on the cross, those words take on new meaning to me.
I have experienced seasons of pain where I longed for relief. I have kept vigil beside the bed of my father when death was in the wings. Likely all of us have had experiences where a resolution to a conflict seems impossible to grasp and was forever in arriving. But it is hard to imagine that any of us have experienced the depth of pain, anguish, suffering, and devastation that Jesus experienced almost two thousand years ago.
I thought I understood until I viewed the Passion of the Christ a few years ago. I was overwhelmed with what the movie depicted. And then I realized that even that was a weak representation of what Jesus really experienced.
We know Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering might be taken away. I am sure there were moments when he just wanted it to be over. In his anguished cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we encounter his utter despair and loneliness. Finally, he says, “It is finished!” and death comes – a paradoxical relief sets in. Not the deliverance hoped for, but a resolution. I am not sure we comprehend the starkness of the moment in light of our knowing the rest of the story – the victory of Easter when everything changes. Sin and death are defeated. Redemption and forgiveness are available. New life and possibility emerge. Salvation is achieved for all who believe and trust in Jesus.
But let’s not rush ahead. Friday is called good in Christianity for a reason – and not just because Easter is coming. Jesus’ death on the cross miraculously addresses the chasm of sin that separates us from reconciliation with God. Jesus’ death cancels the power of sin in our lives. Jesus’ death ensures that those who are in Christ will not experience condemnation.
The depth of God’s love is displayed for us in the death of Jesus on the cross. As John writes in his first letter, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us” (1 John 3:16 NLT). As Paul writes, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6, 8).
The events of Good Friday produce the hope of the restoration of what was lost in Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. We are reminded that “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:21).
The victory of Easter is real. The resurrection displays God’s power available to each and every Christ follower to live a victorious overcoming life. And the resurrection of Jesus points to the ultimate restoration of all things when God’s home will be among his people and when there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain and when Jesus will once more pronounce the words, “It is finished” (see Revelation 21).
Someone has rightly observed you do not experience a resurrection without a crucifixion occurring first. And so in this Holy Week we are right to be upset by the depth of brokenness all around us and perhaps even within us. We are right to long for God to put things right. Yet Jesus has invited us to join him in sharing his suffering, in longing for healing and salvation for that which is not yet redeemed and transformed.
Our hearts rightly break with despair at the depth of sorrow we witness in this world. We mourn at the devastation of sin in individual lives and in society. Our prayers should join the desperate prayers of Jesus in the garden. And we must surrender even as Jesus did, “I want your will to be done, not mine.”
This Holy Week let’s acknowledge that we have not yet arrived at the ultimate victory God has for us. The mission of Jesus is as imperative now as it was when he completed his earthly journey. We too are called to the cross. We too must, in some degree, enter the travail Jesus endured for the sake of a lost creation. We too must long for deliverance – for the ultimate restoration of all things. Deliverance is coming as surely as my phone alarm wakens me each morning without fail. Sunday is coming! We eagerly anticipate joining you, Jesus, at your banquet table at the wedding feast of the Lamb! Hallelujah!
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chairperson of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church (in formation). He is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.