Preparing for Easter (Friday): The Temple Curtain

veil

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. Luke 23:44-47 


Jesus inhaled His last breath and exhaled grace. The sun hid, and hope was swallowed up by the dark.

Panicking, the crowd ran down Golgotha, but those next to the cross had nowhere to go. They had journeyed with their Friend to His death on Jerusalem’s outskirts, the city that had mocked and rejected Him. So how could it be a city for them ever again? They hadn’t brought lanterns, but truly, their souls felt darker than the path before them. They stumbled through the rocks and weeds, through the broken edges of a foot-worn path whose fragments reminded them of Jesus’s torn body.

From Golgotha’s height, this temple was in view — with all its rules and boundaries and religious ones hovering near the outside, hoping to get God’s favor.

And though Christ had breathed his last on the cross, God’s presence was now forever accessible. That intimidating curtain, that “no admittance” curtain separating God’s dwelling place in the temple was torn – literally torn – in two. The Lamb had been sacrificed, His blood had been spilled, and God violently ripped the veil of separation.

His fierce longing and love for His people could never be denied, and even the hardened Centurion who witnessed it all felt Truth move in his heart.

Maybe it feels safer for you to hover from a distance than witness the ripped curtain hanging with its shreds. Maybe the rules and checklists of the Law feel less risky to your desperate heart. Or, maybe the darkness is still shadowing your hope as you stumble along a fragmented path.

But, what’s redemption without the unraveling? What’s everlasting peace without the broken, uneven path leading us there?

Friend, this Rescue Plan is for you. This intense love proven on a cross is for you.

Can you feel His pursuit?

photo source | Jametlene Reskp

Preparing for Easter (Thursday): The Other Cross

3Crosses 1

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43 


How did my life come to this? He was so scared. He had faced humiliation before — he had been beaten and exposed many times before today, his execution day. But the darkest fear ever now suffocated his heart as the criminal pushed himself upward to relieve his lungs.

On the edge of death, hanging on a cross, the uncertainty of what was ahead overwhelmed the perpetrator of crimes. All his pride throughout his lifetime couldn’t save him now. The method reserved for the lowest of criminals, crucifixion, stole any hope of purpose, any hope of redemption. His life was over, and he had nothing to offer society, nothing to offer his family, nothing to offer even himself.

He heard the mocking soldiers joke about the Man beside him, but their insults were nearly drowned by a weeping crowd. Who cries for a criminal?! There’s something different about this Man. His neighbor in death seemed to be in a different world, seemed to know something he didn’t. The angst of His face contrasted the divine of His countenance.

Maybe, just maybe, He really is the Christ. Intended as the soldiers’ joke, the criminal had nothing else to cling to. Nothing to lose.

“When you come into Your kingdom, please remember me.”

With no pride to hide behind and nothing to offer, the criminal spoke from his poverty, risking his last traces of dignity.

Even in His death, Jesus embraced those deemed irreparable by culture. He extended His grace to those who have nothing to offer Him. “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise. I see your lifetime of sin, and I see your desperate ache. I am reaching toward your helplessness and want to be in relationship with you for eternity.”

And friend, He’s reaching toward you, too. Those of you dancing between pride and shame, self-righteousness and brokenness, He’s reaching into your exhaustion to rescue and repair and restore and redeem. He walked the hill of Golgotha to His death for you. For me. For His Bride.

Preparing for Easter (Wednesday): The Game of Mockery

lots

 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” Luke 23:32-38 


He was one of three. One of three Persons in the Holy Godhead, Jesus was one of three crucified on an execution hill, too. Numbered with the transgressors, He identified with the broken and the outcast even in His death.

Can you hear the crass celebrating of the crowd? Can you sense the soldier’s hatred and the misaligned pursuit of justice? There was the arrogance… and the fear of what they didn’t understand… and the reality of being a pawn in the Roman army.

Directing imprisonment and torture and execution day after day, the soldiers trivialized their work, escaped the reality of their orders, by making a game. Casting lots, they hoped to “win” the criminals’ garments as those hanging on crosses were losing their lives.

And the rulers, the leaders, stooped low like the common masses. They jeered and scoffed and made a mockery of the One who came to save them from a captivity they didn’t even know had chained them. “The Rescuer can’t rescue Himself… the Giver of Freedom can’t free His own body… The Son of God, the Chosen One, is insignificant and forgotten now!”

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do… Spread your grace over the oppressors. Flood the ignorant followers with your forgiveness. Restore the unbelieving Jews.” In his last moments on earth, Jesus concludes His ministry by pouring out His blood, spilling His redemption everywhere.

Maybe you’re the transgressor, or the arrogant, or the avoider who’s trivializing pain, or the skeptic. His broken body, his spilled out blood, it’s for you. His forgiveness and grace and redemption – it’s all for you.

Can you humbly surrender to His pursuit?

Can you enter His great Love Story?

Preparing for Easter (Join Me)

Train 2I seem to have stepped on a fast-moving train. I don’t remember boarding, and I certainly didn’t know it would move at this speed. I think I would have chosen something else.

I look around me, and I see beauty. I really do. I see beauty in the scene outside my window, and I pause for a second to breathe deep and drink it all in. But I’d rather be breathing deep on the other side, feet standing their ground, motionless. And I see beauty in the faces of those outside, watching my train race by their peace. They’re all so different, and I wish I could hear every single one of their stories.

But I’m racing instead, journeying to who knows where at record speed.

It’s humbling. I’ve learned to set boundaries, but now they’re mocking me. I’ve learned to say “no”, but I’m clearly not in control right now. I’ve promised over and over to live, but it’s taking great effort to not be numb.

In one week, I’ll celebrate Christ’s resurrection. I’ll delight in His triumph, and I’ll claim the hope that comes in knowing there’s a story bigger than my own. I’ll read that rescue plan with my name on it, and I’ll be amazed life truly can come from death. I’ll remember I was created for a different world where dying and suffering and bad choices and sin will be no more. I’ll exchange loneliness for eternal community with God… insecurity for the bliss of not thinking about myself… shame for Christ’s righteousness.

But I’m racing, and I don’t want to miss it.

Maybe your life is moving too fast, too. Maybe you had every intention of a Lent reading plan, but now you’re just trying to wake up from the detachment. Maybe you’ve forgotten you were created for a different world, and the urgency of your everyday is forefront on your mind.

I invite you to jump off the train with me and pause. Come with me into six different stories from just one day in history before we celebrate on Easter morning. We’ll slow down and touch some tangible things from Christ’s execution day. We’ll turn them over and over in our hands, and hopefully our hearts will follow. We’ll ponder and reflect and in doing so, we’ll be able to celebrate Christ’s resurrection that much more on Sunday.

A path. A story. A game. A cross. A curtain. A tomb.

Yes, instead of racing, we’ll open our eyes and ponder how each of these elements in Luke 23 connect to not only our own stories but with an eternity we can not see yet. We’ll start on Monday.

Monday | The Immigrant’s Path
Tuesday | The Unseen Story
Wednesday | The Game of Mockery
Thursday | The Other Cross
Friday | The Temple Curtain
Saturday | The Borrowed Tomb
Easter Sunday | Resurrection: Just the Right Time

I hope you’ll join me.

goodfriday

photo source (train) | Femke Ongena
photo source (cross) | Jametlene Reskp

Forgiveness: A Teenager’s Story

14753406_921150327989594_6228459161006258279_o

The Wound

It was a normal school day in fourth hour. Some classmates were joking around, holding their iPads like frisbees. As Lucy bent down to retrieve her backpack, she felt a jab and then saw the blood. An iPad had accidentally been launched from Owen’s* hand, hitting her forehead and cutting through three layers of skin. Almost all the way to her skull.

Have you been surprised by trauma before?
Has your heart been pierced all the way to the core? Deeper than you thought possible?

Lucy found herself in the nurse’s office, full of panic and spilling with tears. She answered some questions and waited for her mom to arrive while her wound hid behind a temporary bandage and ice pack.

Are you doing that, too?
Are you trying to heal your wound with a temporary cure? Trying to numb that pain?

Together, Lucy and her mom raced to the Emergency Room only to wait. Sorting through the internal questions… navigating the tension… wrestling with the “why” — they sat for two hours before being invited into healing. She was terrified, for she knew stitches would be the cure.

Lucy, a seamstress, was no novice to needles. She knew their strength, knew the beauty they could create by piecing something together. She had seen needles penetrate cloth with permanency. And this is what terrified her. She knew the puncture was necessary to create, and in her case, necessary to restore. Pain before wholeness.

“The doctor told me he would have to sew through my skin, layer by layer, and that I’d have a permanent scar on my forehead,” Lucy recalls. “I went home after the stitching and cried and cried. You know how physical beauty is so important in this society? I was so angry.”

You, too? Do you feel like your wounds have tainted your beauty?

The Dialogue
Lucy went back to school the next day which proved to be a mistake. Rumors had already been spread that simply weren’t true: Owen had flung his iPad toward Lucy on purpose…she was suffering from a major concussion…her entire face had been cut open…she was being over-dramatic and nothing serious had happened.

Have people tried to sort through your story?
Have they resorted to lies when they couldn’t quite make sense of your struggle?

Lucy wasn’t prepared for all the questions, either. She wasn’t equipped to give explanations or interpret her feelings for everyone publicly. My goodness, she hadn’t even completely faced her reality in solitude yet. Some would ask to see her wound, ripping away any sense of normalcy for the self-conscious girl.

Despite all the attention, she felt so… alone. “People didn’t make eye contact,” Lucy remembers. “They’d either look away from me or just stare. There was no middle ground.”

To help themselves navigate the awkwardness, some would turn to jokes. They weren’t cruel, but they tried to make light of something very, very real. Lucy faked a lot of laughs to go along. “It was very uncomfortable,” she admits.

The Healing
But the seamstress is also an artist. And she turned to paper and water and color for therapy.

rose

In something as delicate as a flower, Lucy began to find strength. She discovered her voice and fell into gratitude. “So thankful for how I’ve grown closer to God through this. It could have been a lot worse, and I am eternally grateful to him.”

And as she began to accept her situation, she knew forgiveness and reconciliation were the next steps. Owen had pursued her immediately. He visited her that first day in the school nurse’s office, overflowing with apologies. His friend had come along, too. Trying to comfort her, he shared his own story of receiving stitches once and assured her she would survive.

“He calmed me down and brought me back to reality that day,” Lucy recalls. Freshmen in high school… empathizing… owning a mistake… asking for forgiveness.

While she was engaged in ongoing conversations with Owen and the school counselor, Lucy’s peers were trying to support her. But remember her initial anger? Well, these kids loved their friend and were furious, too. Some publicly declared their rage toward Owen. They wrote hate notes to him and left them in Lucy’s locker, hoping to make her feel better.

“I had made peace with Owen, though,” testifies Lucy. “We weren’t enemies when the accident happened. I had moved on from the wound, but my friends hadn’t moved on. They had good intentions, but their hate notes weren’t supporting me.”

Have you found yourself wanting to heal but needing to comfort your loved ones instead?
Have empathizing friends who meant well kept you from forgiving?

The counselor urged Lucy find her voice again and publicly urge her friends to get over her situation. She wanted to thank everyone for their support but remind them they could lift her up without tearing down Owen. She turned to the canvas again.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-08-43-am
“We all make mistakes.”
“We all need grace, forgiveness, and a chance to start over.”
“Letting go of past hurt changes you.”

And it worked. People stopped sending hate notes, and she continued to forgive Owen. Her story impacted so many, and she recalls the certainty of knowing that many beyond herself were wrestling with God and engaging with Him because of her story. She drank from the cup of closure and was satisfied.

Friends, she’s only fourteen.

The Challenge
On that day in fourth hour, and in the weeks to come, Lucy’s people were reminded how faith and everyday reality do indeed intersect. How quickly we forget. Through the strength of the Healer and Master Artist, Lucy found the courage to forgive, and even reconcile. And an entire community was marked by her courage.

“If you’re reluctant to forgive,” challenges Lucy, “you have to really think about that person… and your relationship with that person. If you’re thinking about retaliating or choosing the “safety” of ignoring, ask yourself, ‘How could God get glory if I took a peaceful resolution?’ ”

So, my friends, what about your wounds?
Is God calling you to more than just surviving?
Is He calling you to restoration?

“He binds their wounds,
heals the sorrows of their hearts.” Psalm 147:3

 “Visualize this: His blood freely flowing down the cross, setting us free! We are forgiven for our sinful ways by the richness of His grace… Be kind and compassionate. Graciously forgive one another just as God has forgiven you through the Anointed, our Liberating King… So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children.” Ephesians 1:7, 4:32, 5:1

*Some names have been changed

photo source | SugarBean Photography