INTIMACY BEFORE AGONY
… ”Over the course of three years, the disciples had heard Jesus teach on a variety of subjects, including love. But Jesus never spoke of love the way he did the night before he went to the cross (once Judas had left). He mentioned “love” more than thirty times that night — the Father’s love for him, his love for the Father, even the world’s brand of love. Yet, I imagine what rang, especially in the disciples’ hearts, were his words about love concerning those present among them.
Jesus made love personal, saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Amid bickering and betrayal, relationship moved front and center. The disciples were about to experience sorrow they’d never known. They were about to be tested as never before. They needed one another. They needed to love one another. And their love would serve as a witness to a watching world that they were his disciples (John 13:35).
But once again, Jesus was not merely teaching. He was expressing the love he felt for them. “ . . . as I have loved you . . . ” No doubt, they knew that Jesus loved them. But this is the first time, as recorded in the Gospels, that Jesus openly expressed it. And he didn’t say it just once.
- “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
- “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
And then he said this: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:13–14).” … Kim Cash Tate
“We often hear the phrase, “the crux of the matter” or “the crux of a situation.” The word “crux” comes from Medieval Latin, and simply means cross. Why has the word “crux” come to be associated with a critical juncture or point in time? Because the Cross of Christ is truly the crux of history. Without the Cross, history itself cannot be defined or corrected.
There is another word we often hear when we are in the throes of indescribable pain, the word, “excruciating.” That, too, derives from the Latin and means “out of the cross.” Across time and human experience, the historical event of the Cross intersects time and space and speaks to the deepest hurts of the human heart.
But we live with more than pain and suffering. We also live with deep hungers within the human heart, such as the hunger for truth, for justice, forgiveness, and peace. As I see it, there is only one place in the world where these hungers converge: it is in the Cross of Christ, where perfect peace and perfect justice became united in one death on a Friday afternoon.” … Ravi Zacharias
BEAUTY FROM ASHES
”I keep seeing this image. It’s of the disciples, and Jesus’s mother, Mary, weeping at the foot of the cross. They are huddled together, trying to comfort each other. Trying to make sense of all that has happened. But it just doesn’t make sense.
‘The sky is black. All hope looks lost. Their dreams have died. It seems that nothing good will ever come from this.
‘To them, this day, Good Friday, is the darkest day they’ve ever known.
‘But the one thing that they do not know is . . . Easter is coming.’” … Vaneetha Rendall Risner
"IN SPITE OF THAT, WE CALL THIS FRIDAY GOOD" ~ T.S. Eliot in East Coker
"I'm trying not to skip ahead to Easter. I'm trying, these two days, to sit in the grace of the stripped altar and enter imaginatively into the place of the disciples [and Jesus's mother], who only knew that their Lord had died, not that he would rise again. Flannery O'Connor's stories are a help in that regard. Her characters suffer and boast and finagle their way through a broken world, unaware that grace is streaking silently toward them like a meteor that will throw everything off balance." ... Jonathan Rogers
AT WORK IN THE DARK
“Jesus was dead and buried, with a big stone rolled against the tomb, and the Pharisees came to Pilate to ask for permission to seal the stone and guard the tomb. Pilate responded, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” (Matthew 27:65). So they did.
They gave it their best shot — in vain.
It was hopeless then, it is hopeless today, and it will always be hopeless. Try as they may, people can’t keep Jesus down. They can’t keep him buried. They may use physical force or academic scorn or media blackout or political harassment or religious caricature. For a season, they will think the tomb is finally sealed. But it never works. He breaks out.
It’s not hard to figure out: He can break out because he wasn’t forced in. He lets himself be libeled and harassed and black-balled and scorned and shoved around and killed.
I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17–18)No one can keep him down because no one ever knocked him down. He lay down when he was ready.
China may have been “closed” for forty years to Western missionaries, and it’s not because Jesus slipped and fell into the tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved fifty million Chinese from inside — without Western missionaries. And when it was time, he pushed the stone away so we could see what he had done. …
For twenty centuries, the world has given it their best shot — in vain. They can’t bury him. They can’t hold him in. They can’t silence him or limit him.
Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come wherever he pleases. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). All things were made through him and for him, and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers (Colossians 1:16–17).” … John Piper
LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE
… ”But the old creation is to limp along a little longer, while they believe that the new creation is already here and walk by faith. They must not doubt though their mortal eyes cannot apprehend this new creation. By faith they must participate in it. They must live in the faith that the curse has already been repealed. That death itself has already been conquered. That though they go down to the grave - that this means nothing.
But they shall be raised again in glory - like their saviour. And their eyes shall see him and not another. Even as their outward man - which still partakes of the old world - is passing away, they must understand that the inner man now partakes of the glory and the power of the resurrected Christ. And is being renewed daily in this new creation. And one day, though their outward man has gone down to the dust, yet he shall come up again as well. Christ is the firstfruits of that great harvest.
So Jesus gives them an assurance, though he does not appear in the eyes of the world as a king, yet all authority, all power—in heaven and on earth—has been given to him. Though they do not see him sitting on his judgment throne condemning those who crucified him—though they do not see him with a visible crown or a visible kingdom—still he tells them, ‘I have all authority and power. My reign begins now. My kingdom is here.’" … The Whole Story as preached by Bill Baldwin