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 (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 (Tuesday): The Unseen Story

story227 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:27-31 


There were throngs of commoners, local women who were unknown, shrieking and mourning over the torn Man stumbling by. Some hid their eyes from the suffering, but those who dared to look wailed with grief and fright. The story of Jesus’s torture had spread like wildfire as injustice burned fear deep within their souls.

The self-proclaimed Messiah seemed to always surround Himself with ordinary people, and now, too, even on His execution day, He engaged nameless individuals in the crowd.

To their surprise, Jesus turned. He turned and looked right at them and predicted their suffering. “Your city,” He warned, “your city will be destroyed. Weep for your future. Weep for your children’s future. You will seek refuge from destruction and have to flee from what’s familiar to find it.”

Predicting the destruction of Jerusalem that would later come in AD 70, Christ used His own suffering to teach about Jerusalem’s coming doom. City-dwellers and rural residents alike longed to be rescued from oppressive Roman rule. For years, they had begged God for a political leader only to meet a Messiah who spoke mysteriously about a world beyond what they could see. They wanted relief for their everyday, but He spoke of peace for eternity. They wanted an alternative to crooked laws, but He offered deliverance from their sin that was staining their choices and relationships and communion with Jehovah.

“You’ll have to flee what’s familiar…” Challenging them to consider a kingdom beyond what they could see, Jesus offered something bigger than even the Roman empire. 

And He calls us, too. The Restorer of what’s broken calls us beyond what’s tangible, beyond our temporary comforts, in order to find healing.

It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? It’s easy to forget we were made for a different world. We imagine relief from this tangible world, but Christ’s deliverance is bread for the famished soul; it’s peace for the war waging within our heart and thought-patterns.

Are you begging for a change in circumstances? The Rescuer sees you and is offering to transform you.


photo source | steve halama

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.