Preparing for Easter (Saturday): The Borrowed Tomb

tombNow there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. Luke 23:50-52 

And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief.     Isaiah 53:9-10a ESV 


When He walked the earth and breathed our air, my Lord said He had nowhere to lay His head. And here in death, here He lays in a borrowed tomb. A man of means came forward to preserve my Savior’s dignity and lay Him to rest in the earth He Himself created before the start of time.

The mystery… it’s too much for me to understand, too much for me to reconcile.

The very God who wrote a love story at the beginning of time included His own suffering in the darkest chapter.

The very God who wrote a love story at the beginning of time included His own suffering in the darkest chapter.  

I look around, and I see myself reflected in the eyes of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I see their brokenness, and it mirrors mine.

I see the violence in my heart – an unkind thought, a judgment, an annoyance, a scorn. But my sweet Jesus – there was no violence in His hand, and none was found even in the deepest crevices of His heart where no one sees.

And I find myself deceived over and over again by a culture that clashes with the truth. I cringe as I hear myself speak error not only to others, but to myself, as I whisper doubt and end up believing lies. But my Rescuer, there was no deceit in His mouth. He spoke no wrong. He gave no empty threats, no empty promises.

But here He lay in that borrowed tomb after enduring my cross.

My Jesus, the Author of the greatest love story — He could have defeated and even prevented His own suffering. But He wrote chapter after chapter in which He Himself was misunderstood, and mocked, and tortured, and betrayed. And here He lay abandoned. Here he lay alone, crushed by the very story He wrote to save me.

And dare I ask Him why?! Dare I ask Him to interpret His mystery? His thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are His ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than this earth, higher than this cold, cold tomb, His ways are higher. His thoughts are higher. His story is much, much deeper and intricate than I could ever write.

So do I trust Him? When I am crushed, do I trust the God who wrote suffering into His own plot? When I choke on grief, do I surrender to the One who poured Himself out as an offering to mankind, spilling His grace everywhere?

Sweet Jesus, my Rescuer, my greatest Hope, I lean into the mystery I can’t understand. I collapse into your redemption plan. But I grieve as you lay there bruised and alone.

Preparing for Easter (Wednesday): The Game of Mockery

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 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 (Monday): The Immigrant’s Path

Narrow street in Jewish Quarter Jerusalem26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26


Do you see him? Do you see that man from the countryside, common and random, thrust into the drama of an execution? Originally from North Africa, Simon the immigrant had journeyed into a new life in Israel, only to walk yet another path — this one stained with blood.

He followed Jesus from behind, struggling to balance a heavy beam as his mind raced to find an explanation. Splinters dug into his neck, but fear kept him moving as he looked straight ahead at the tortured Man, avoiding the soldiers’ glare. What in the world had that Man done to deserve such a beating? To earn such a humiliating death?

Power and oppressive force had yanked Simon into the day’s events, as he navigated the scene. Carrying the burden of death on his shoulders, remnants of blood stained his cloak while his mind and heart were forever scarred. The suffering and the mystery captured him, wooing him into a Love Story even he didn’t understand at the time.

The Man was known and cherished, as commoners in the crowd wept hard and grieved His suffering.

Will we surrender to God’s plan, to the path chosen for us?

We walk through life, busy with determination for ordinary tasks and plans, but God calls us to more. Might we gaze beyond ourselves and see burdens we could carry? Are we willing to be pulled from our daily routines and thrust into something bigger than ourselves? Are we surrendered enough to get dirty and soiled and participate in redemption?

Culture exalts power and independence, but Christ-followers are called to journey deeper into self-denial, positioning others’ needs over our own. Friend, let’s stay faithful amidst the brokenness. Let’s serve at a moment’s notice, gazing ahead to the purpose God has ordained for us.

Like Simon of Cyrene, let’s follow.

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

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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.

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“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