The Grief and Joy of Easter
TODAY is called Good Friday by Christians around the world. It commemorates the crucifixion of Christ Jesus and is called ``good'' because Christians believe Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was necessary for their salvation. No Christian takes the message of this day lightly, yet there is much in it that can comfort us during this solemn time.
In a sense, Good Friday is the commemoration of what appeared to be a dead end, a time when good seemingly was stopped in its tracks by evil. Hope was turned to despair, victory into defeat. To those going through the original Good Friday, it must have been an incredibly dark time indeed. What they didn't know until a few days later was that evil never wins, and this is what makes Good Friday's message one of hope for all of us.
While it is unlikely that any of us will go through the intense fear and despair that the disciples must have felt during the crucifixion, there are perhaps moments of bleakness when hope seems feeble and the flame of joy dim. At those times, Good Friday's grief has a message of hope and joy as we turn our thoughts to Christ Jesus' life and resurrection. Jesus' life speaks to us because he too knew grief. In a prophecy concerning the Messiah, the book of Isaiah speaks of him this way: ``He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief'' (53:3).
Throughout his ministry, Jesus faced the reality of this prophecy. Yet, John's Gospel records, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus could tell his disciples, ``Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy'' (16:20).
He had yet to face his accusers and to be crucified. But his trust in God's saving power was so strong that he could make this promise to his followers. And, in fact, his words were proved true by the resurrection. This example from Jesus' life can help us when we face dark nights or trouble-filled days. Even before his victory, even before the final chapter was written, Jesus could tell his followers ``Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.'' His resurrection shows how the so-called defeat of good was turned into permanent victory, and it is meant to strengthen our own endeavors as we turn to God, good.
To the disciples, Jesus' crucifixion must have seemed incomprehensible. For about three years they had watched the Master preach, teach, heal, and work other wonders--all through his understanding of God as ever-present Love. And he endeavored to convey something of this knowledge to them. When he was crucified, it seemed as if all his work was for nothing. Their own efforts as healers and teachers seemed pointless. In addition, they may have feared that they also were in danger.
It is not difficult to imagine what an impact Jesus' resurrection must have had on the disciples. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of it in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She says, ``His students saw this power of Truth heal the sick, cast out evil, raise the dead; but the ultimate of this wonderful work was not spiritually discerned, even by them, until after the crucifixion, when their immaculate Teacher stood before them, the victor over sickness, sin, disease, death, and the grave'' (p. 137).
Whatever the nature of our individual dead end or moment when evil seems triumphant, we can join with the disciples in the fact of Easter's joy--the resurrection of Christ Jesus and all that it means to humanity. It helps us to understand the reality of God's omnipotent power.
Jesus' mission was designed to teach us of God's love for man and of our inseparability from our divine Father. Through his works, Jesus showed that God's power isn't an abstract concept, available only in small doses or in especially challenging times. Divine goodness is right where we are, present whenever we need it. And Jesus' resurrection demonstrated that man is spiritual, not material--that man is subject only to divine Life, never to death.
So if you are going through a dark passage, remember the darkness that descended that first Good Friday when it seemed that good had been swallowed up by evil. This will show you that you are not alone, that others have known darkness before you. But don't stop there. Remember the promise of Easter and look for God's compassionate power in your life. Listen to His guidance, and you will find that there is no night so dark that the light of Love cannot shine in it. And there is no despair that cannot be overturned by divine Life.
Now upon the first day of the week,
very early in the morning,
they came unto the sepulchre,
bringing the spices
which they had prepared,
and certain others with them.
And they found the stone
rolled away from the sepulchre.
And they entered in,
and found not the body
of the Lord jesus.
And it came to pass,
as they were much perplexed thereabout,
behold, two men stood by them
in shining garments:
and as they were afraid,
and bowed down their faces to the earth,
they said unto them,
Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is not here, but is risen.