He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5)
When the disciples witnessed Jesus being crucified, they didn’t know it was “Good Friday” and likely would have be appalled that someone would refer to it as such. They didn’t watch the nails being driven into Jesus’ wrists and feet, as they high-fived each other, declaring “Sunday’s comin’!” When they felt the earth tremble as Jesus took his last breath, they weren’t filled with the expectation that they’d be skipping around singing, “Hallelujah, Jesus is alive! Death has lost it’s victory and the grave has been denied” just 3 days later. No.
Sure, they heard Jesus talk about being “the resurrection and the life”. They heard him dare the pharisees to “destroy this temple” and promise to raise it up 3 days later. They heard him tell them the time had come for him to be “offered up.” They heard all that. But still… they didn’t have any context for what they were now seeing. None of THAT really prepared them for THIS.
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)
This was arguably and literally the darkest day in history; a day when even the sun refused to shine. Their leader, their teacher, their Lord… their… friend… had just been brutally assassinated before their eyes. They felt defeated. They were confused. They were shaken. There was nothing good about that day.
From the foundations of the world, the victory was already won. The fight was fixed. The Master Strategist at work. But in that moment, it looked like a total loss. A brutal defeat. A complete and utter failure.
Yet, I have to wonder what kind of hope they had in their heart. I have to wonder if, in spite of what they saw, they feared this might be the end. It must have been a dramatic juxtaposition to everything they were seeing with their eyes and feeling, but I have to wonder what they still believed.
And what about the day in between? What about “Saturday”? What about the day they just sat.
And tried to breathe.
What about… “the middle”?
To understand the purpose of the cross you have to be able to see it as well as see past it. The cross was weighty and crucial, but it was not the end. It reminds me that there is always more than what I am seeing. It reminds me to hope, in spite of what I feel. It reminds me to remember the cross, but not to stop there. It reminds me to breathe in life, embrace the moment and wait. The cross reminds me that maybe, just maybe, this is not the end.