A Devotion for the Third Sunday in April
I am tempted to write about the celebration we will do Sunday as we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, but I must hesitate and wait.
Because Easter is not here yet.
There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. There can be no Easter without Good Friday. There can be no empty tomb without the cross.
Good Friday helps us to confront the reality of death that we will all face. If Jesus died, then it means that we will die too. We need Good Friday, because if God became truly human in Jesus, then it means that God endured everything that we endured, including and most especially, death.
Yet, the death of Jesus reminds us that God enters with us into that reality. We have the courage to face death, because we know that Jesus went there and God is found there. We are comforted, because we know that God understands our grief, our mourning, and our death. Jesus embodies the comfort of the psalmist who declares, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff-they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Jesus lives out Paul’s declaration that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
More than that comfort of God’s presence in our death, the death of Jesus assures us that death is not the end. Death does not have the final say. God does. And the final word is life. Easter does come. Resurrection does happen.
But before we get there, stop yourself. Do not flee like the disciples. Painful though it may be, allow yourself to pause at the cross and look at the dying form of Jesus. Look into the tomb on Saturday and see the dead body lying there. As Jesus was, so you will be.
Only then, only as you begin to comprehend the reality of this death and your own death, will the full power of the Easter promise burst upon you.
God, I want to avoid death. I want to avoid suffering. I want to avoid pain. But I cannot. Yet, through Jesus, you promise that you go with me through my suffering, my pain, my death. Help me trust in your presence and to realize the life you promise to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Pastor David Armstrong-Reiner