As Jesus’ body was being taken down from the cross and being prepared for burial, what might Jesus say to us about his experience? I believe he might say the following:
“I went through all of that because you are worth it. You are worth living for. You are worth dying for. In your darkest nights, in your deepest depression, remember that God thought you were worth his life. You are loved that much. You matter that much. ‘Greater love no one has than to lay down your life for your friends.’
“I did not die so that you could live in guilt and self-recrimination. I died to set you free from sin and guilt. I am not honored by your shame. I am honored by your using your life to make life better for others. I did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. I am glorified by your creating something beautiful with your life.
“I went through all of that pain and degradation – the beating, the spitting, the taunting, the nailing, the stabbing, the ridicule and the rejection – to model to you how to handle the misfortunes and tragedies of life. There will be people who will hurt you in life. There will be people in your life who will betray you as Judas betrayed me. There will be people in your life who will abandon you as Peter and the other apostles abandoned me. Your friends are not always the ones you think are your friends.
“Yet, while some people let me down, surprising people stepped forward. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, people who had formerly come to me only secretly, or by night, now came out into the light. Therefore do not let the unfairness and injustices in your life turn you bitter or cynical. There will be angels on your path as well. There will be a Simon of Cyrene to help you carry your cross. There will be friends like the Beloved Disciple and the women who stayed with me all the way to the cross.
“And if you feel that no one understands you, or cares about you, remember that my mother is now your mother. Her mothering spirit will be with you throughout your life, and, when you breathe your last breath, she will hold you in her arms, and lead you to my arms.
“So, endure your crosses bravely. If others nail you with false accusations, when people misjudge you, when your goodness is rewarded with meanness, do not focus on life’s harshness, but focus on your God. You will not be abandoned, and, as I arose above the cruelty, so will you.
“So, let go of your anger and bitterness, and hold onto your God. And I will take you off your cross. I will call you out of your grave. I will share my life with you forever.”
I hope you will use this little meditation often during this Holy Week, and through all the weeks of the year. Suffering is a mystery for all of us. Jesus who seemed so much like God in his goodness to others seemed so inadequate at protecting himself. He who cared for others was not cared for by others. He who cured others was brutalized by others. He who raised the dead, joined the dead.
Suddenly, the resurrection changes all that. At Easter the power of the risen Lord is manifest! The rock, meant to seal the tomb, is pushed aside like a pebble. Guards, meant to ensure that his body was not stolen, are helpless to contain his body, now risen. In death, he looked like the most abject of us. Now he looks like God in glory. He who would not call a legion of angels to save himself from death, is now escorted to life by angels. The circle is now complete. Just as angels heralded his birth in Bethlehem, so now angels herald his rebirth in Jerusalem.
Happy Easter. Happy eternal life!