Saturday Morning

He’s dead.

I just can’t believe it. None of us can. It was only a week ago that the crowds thronged to adore him, waving palm branches and praising the king who comes in the name of the Lord. And yesterday, those same crowds called for him to be crucified. And he was: suffocating, painfully, on that cross for hours. Mercifully he died somewhat quickly. Crucifixion can take much, much longer.

God bless Joseph of Arimathea. He alone had the courage to ask Pilate to allow Jesus to be buried properly. God only knows why Pilate consented, but Joseph used what would have been his own tomb someday. The women prepared the body and laid in in the tomb, with its shroud, and then several men rolled the heavy boulder over the entrance to seal it.

I honestly don’t know that I or anyone else around me would have had Joseph’s courage. With our teacher dead, executed as a traitor to the Roman state, so many of us are fearful and melting into the shadows already. I know of several who cheered him last Sunday and who are already trying to cozy up to the temple leaders, as if nothing had happened. I can understand it, I guess. What we had thought would be a world-changing, earth-shaking revolution to restore Israel has…failed. It makes sense, I suppose, to try to make amends with the powerful who still, really, are in charge.

I think what strikes me the most right now is the silence. Where his followers would have been in cheerful conversation, laughing and singing hymns with him, we’re all now dazed, confused, frightened, and sheltering in our own homes, no longer a community but a collection of scared people. And scared people don’t sing hosannas. It’s so very quiet. It’s like there’s another shoe out there waiting to drop, and right now, I don’t think any of us can take it when it does.

It’s the second day of Passover. But I don’t feel like celebrating anything right now. I’m just so lost. God, why did he have to die? Why didn’t you see through to the end your promise of redemption of your people Israel? What do you expect us to do now?

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It Really Is God’s Story: We’re Just Living In It

That feels so…grating, doesn’t it somehow? Aren’t I the author of my own story? Don’t I have free will, making my own way? Well, yes. But our brief moment on earth is just a fleeting instant in the great arc of the Story we’re all a part of.

The Bible tells of that arc so well. God created the earth and everything in it, including humanity. We then almost immediately turned our backs on him. He was offering such closeness, an intimacy even, that we can’t even imagine: Genesis 3:8 describes how God was walking in the Garden…the same God, walking through the same Garden we had the privilege briefly to inhabit with him. Instead we chose to disobey, to listen to our other passions. The entire rest of the Bible is the story of God trying to rebuild the relationship we severed in our sin in the Garden.

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Think about it: we struggle to make it outside the Garden, and eventually sin so much that God hits Reset and saves only Noah and his family in the flood. Trying again, we have righteous people like Abraham and Joseph, who try to walk in God’s path, but still remain unable to approach. God gives us the Law through Moses, then, as a way to help shape us into his people, but we overdo it: we take it too literally, and become a people of nitpicking and lose the forest for the trees. Finally, God sends his Son, Jesus, who is able to demonstrate the way to draw close to God once more, and whose death and resurrection opened the door to us to follow.

A massive epic like that transcends any one of us. We’re bit players in this drama! We don’t rate top billing. We’re onstage for a moment, and our role is to help draw attention to the main actors, not to upstage them and hog the spotlight. Once we come to acknowledge that we’re here not because of anything amazing that we’ve done, or anything amazing about us, but because we’re to return to God and to help bring others’ attention to him, then so much more of life falls into place.

To play our part, we have to acknowledge the lead actor. That’s worship. We have to focus our attention on him, so that the others–the audience, if you will–are able to focus on him too, to hear what he has to say.

In God’s story, there’s a battle, and it’s the same for us. We’re born into a world at war, between good and evil, as Act III of the play is unfolding. We’re not yet at the glorious climax, but rather at the point of the play when it feels like it could go in any of a number of directions. But the cool thing is, we know how the play will turn out: with God’s ultimate victory. We celebrated that at Easter this weekend, and we celebrate it in our hearts every day that we remember our role in God’s larger story.