“…Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mark 15:29)
As I write this we are just one week away from the holiest week of the year for Christians. We tell the powerful story that can transform lives. It is a story that always strikes me for its starkness, cruelty, and senselessness. Here is the One whom we just welcomed just a few weeks ago in a manger at Christmas. God reached out in human form and met us in our broken world with good news! Peace on earth!
Jesus healed the sick and opened the way of faith for everyone who would come to him and to all he would come to meet. Everyone was offered a way to touch God and be touched by God! There was healing, justice, and salvation freely given! How did the humanity he came to save respond? We crucified him…
As I walk this week, it all looks hopeless. Senseless. Brutal. Yet, I’ve noticed that it is often when I am going through a time of suffering that this story is most striking, and in a strange way comforting (?). In Jesus, God walked in the real world we live in. Not only in the peaceful calm of a Christmas night, but also in the midst of an often brutal world full of cruelty and utmost evil. When I think about that, I begin to sense at a deeper level the connection we are given between our suffering and the suffering of Christ. No matter how brutal, cruel, unjust, our road can become, whatever comes our way, the God we seek has walked it and will walk it with us, again. As I hear Jesus’ cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I can hear my own voice. I am not alone. “Come follow me…” I am invited to explore the possibility of the world beyond. As I follow Jesus there is a Way.
What this very holy week reminds us is that Christ’s suffering and death were not without meaning, purpose and hope; rather this story is their foundation. In Christ, as we walk those times in our lives, we can know that our suffering and pain are also never in vain. Those times are never without meaning or purpose. Actually it’s just the opposite. Those times can become places where we build a new and deeper foundation for our lives. They can be times that offer new possibilities. They can be spring boards to new life and hope, as we continue our journey with Jesus
As we approach this holiest of weeks, let us reflect on that deep love of God who meets us in the ‘valleys of the shadows of death.’ May we open ourselves to the One who walked that valley before us and who can truly lead us home.