Jesus walked the earth as a man with flesh and bones. Take a moment to try to sense how real He is. Try to feel it. Picture His dark curly hair, His deep olive complexion, His eyes full of compassion. Now, visualize Him walking among the people of the ancient Near Eastern world. He proclaimed truth to religious leaders with grace and authority. He cared for and affirmed those forgotten and abandoned on the margins of society. He loved and lived with humble perfection as the only Innocent One. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Lord present with His people, God with us. Since before time began, He’s known us and loved us, the chosen people of God. He took on flesh, celebrated with us, wept with us, and suffered for us.
This Man, Jesus, was nailed to a cross, accused, betrayed, and lynched, but guilty of nothing. The embodiment of Love was hated and assassinated. Physically and emotionally, pain and suffering tormented the Prince of Peace. It was an execution providentially brought to be by God, because His people, even as sinners, are so loved by Him. It was wrong, yet right. Jesus, the Lord of all creation, humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross as the only sufficient sacrifice. The perfectly Holy One, who has never known sin, became a sin offering hanging on that tree. Jesus died. This is how Friday ends.
Sunday is coming, but how does Saturday feel?
It is good and right for us to feel the reality of this loss without rushing ahead in the narrative. Pause, reflect, and pay attention to what it is you feel.
Does it make you anxious? Afraid? Sad? Angry? For me, the answer is, yes.
We have a hope that suffering will come to an end, but what of our emotions in the presence of the pain? Throughout Scripture we find provision is made for those who are anxious and afraid. As a command of comfort, not rebuke, we are told, “be anxious for nothing” and to “fear not” because our God is with us, He hears us, and He provides—of course this requires we realize and confess our fear and anxiety. When it comes to sadness and anger, however, the instruction is nuanced differently. It seems we are encouraged to feel them fully. They are appropriate emotions. We find we are blessed in our mourning because our Comforter draws near. We are to have righteous indignation—to be angry, but do not sin.
In life (perhaps more so in church culture), we are often misled to believe our so-called “negative” emotions should be dismissed and denied. Jesus, instead, frees us to be honest about our sadness in the midst of suffering and to be angry about injustice wherever it may be found. We are even free to feel our fear and anxiety in times of uncertainty and chaos—provided we repent of any sin and recognize these feelings serve as a reminder of our dependence on the Lord. Indeed, all the emotions we feel point us to the good news of Jesus, our God with us and for us. It is good to feel them.
The pain and suffering is worthy of your emotions.
In the midst of a global pandemic, there is death and darkness everywhere. Along with the spread of a viral disease, there is rampant distress from loneliness, fear, anxiety, depression, and a general drift from normalcy that leaves many disoriented and afraid. Moreover, political and racial tensions from a tumultuous season have wreaked havoc on relationships and continue to do so. Many are exhausted, despondent, and still searching for hope. We would be remiss to jump to quoting platitudes in the face of such suffering—even if those platitudes are true.
Setting out to circumvent the unpleasant things of this present life is an understandable pursuit; however, it is also unhealthy and unbiblical. Strangely, Scripture is often misused to deny the opportunity to embrace much needed emotions. It’s as if true things are truncated and welded as a form of positivity that actually keeps us from true freedom. It’s spiritual bypassing as an attempt to deflect or distract from pain and suffering, but it does not bring healing and salvation. It does not liberate. It solves no problems. Denial proves insufficient because it tells a lie about reality. Good Friday serves as a reminder that our anger, our sadness, and even our fear and anxiety, all have meaning.
Our Savior knows our pain, and He knows its purpose.
Jesus suffered on the cross, but He endured it, despising its shame, for the joy that was set before Him. The empty grave is the evidence that our faith is not in vain. We may find reason and energy to endure as we focus on the resurrection, but unless we see the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, we cannot fully know the sweetness of our freedom. Being honest about the negative things in life does not make us less faithful. On the contrary, this is what it is like to believe the gospel holistically. We need the liberation found in the radiant light of the resurrection, and it is the sorrowful darkness of the cross that epitomizes that need. The more the gut-wrenching gloom of Friday is fully felt, the brighter the brilliance of Sunday grows to be.
When you are experiencing the darkest and lowest moments, when your soul is crying out for relief, when your very being knows something must be done, but you don’t know what to do… remember, Jesus entered into the messiness of this world as a marginalized man, and He suffered. He was hated, falsely accused, betrayed, beaten, abused, and on a Friday He was killed. But it all served a purpose. Having endured it, He knows your pain, and He purchased your freedom.
At this very moment, Jesus is alive! On Sunday the stone rolled back, and He walked out of the tomb. In His resurrection, He put Death to death. Do not lose hope or grow weary in difficult times. Fix your eyes on Jesus. We will endure to find a Hope that is sure, and, like our Savior, we will gain an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs this temporary suffering. This is what makes the gospel such good news on every sorrowful Friday and every day in between. I pray this be felt in the depths of our souls.
How will you and your community celebrate Good Friday, remembering our great Savior who can identify with us in our emotions and pain and invites us to come to Him?
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