The Day God Died
Every year, my parents and I attend a Good Friday church service that ends very sadly. The lights go out, no one talks and there's a gloomy mood to capture what it must have been like the day Jesus died.
As we drive home, I always try to pretend Jesus is dead and buried. I try to grieve. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't feel a lasting sadness about his death because I know what happens next. I know Jesus doesn't stay dead. And while the crucifixion is horrible and sad, I can't hide my joy that it led to Jesus rising from his tomb and saving me from my sin and death.
But last Easter I spent a good deal of time reading John 16, and I was really hit hard by what was going on in that part of the Bible: When Jesus was about to die his disciples just didn't understand the plan. He tried to explain that what was happening was good, but they didn't see it that way. I may know the happy ending of Jesus' death, but the disciples sure didn't. They were clueless after the crucifixion. Jesus was dead. That's all they knew.
When Jesus was arrested and killed, the disciples—his friends and students—were afraid and confused. After Jesus' arrest, Peter denied he even knew him. Others took off and hid. And really, their fear, sadness and confusion are understandable. Their entire world just crashed in. They had dedicated their lives to Jesus, and now he was gone. Dead. Without him, they could see no future. They risked everything for this guy—and now, he was lying dead in a tomb. Nothing made sense.
But just days before his death, Jesus told his disciples he would soon leave them. As bad as it seemed, it was for the best. Jesus says, "I am on my way to the one who sent me. Not one of you has asked, 'Where are you going?' Instead, the longer I've talked, the sadder you've become. So let me say it again, this truth: It's better for you that I leave" (John 16:5-7, The Message). The problem: Even after this, the disciples just didn't get it. All they saw was that their friend was leaving.
Jesus, always the caring teacher, again tried to explain. John 16:19-23 reads: "Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, 'Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me?' Then fix this firmly in your minds: You're going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You'll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness. When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions" (The Message).