Now What? – How The Light Gets In
I’m feeling yucky about something I said. During small group this past week, a question like, “What do you think about the cross, that Jesus bore our sin?” came up as part of our discussion time. No hesitation, I answered, “Shame. I’d look away.”
There was no awkward silence from my friends but just a gentle push for more on that reaction.
Actually, looking at the cross is not something I like to do.
The cross is violent, messy, bloody, dark. It makes me feel bad and I want to look away. I would rather focus on walking, talking, healing Jesus.
But, the cross is exactly where our focus is because we are in Holy Week. We started with Palm Sunday, coming up there’s Holy Thursday, Good Friday and finally, Easter.
This week, all eyes are on the cross.
Except mine. Except mine? I’m trying.
During the reading of Mark 14:1-15:47 on Palm Sunday, my 8year old Lily was listening intently and asked “why did Jesus let Judas betray him? He could have stopped him. Why did those people get mad when the lady put oil on Jesus? It was her jar. Why did they spit on him? Why did they take his clothes? Wait, they nailed him? They put nails through him?”
I answered her questions and watched her little face take it all in. Lily was looking at the cross, not looking away.
Her courage to keep sitting there made me turn to my bible to find Luke’s telling of Jesus’ way to the cross (he’s a little more matter of fact than Mark). My She Reads Truth bible has small devotionals throughout each book offering a deeper dive into the stories.
And, this is one of those moments that I believe is more than just a coincidence.
The devotional’s invitation in the gospel of Luke says, “Don’t Look Away.” Can’t make it up.
So, here we are folks.
I’ve been praying for the big courage of a little Lily to linger at the cross and to look. So, here’s what I’m finding and I’m inviting you to look with me.
Let’s go first to a verse we should have memorized by now-
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:30
Jesus is proving something powerful and hope-giving through the cross. Suffering can also be how the light gets in.
Jesus carries our burden as the most powerful light even through a violent, bloody mess. He suffers for me. He dies for you.
Light, being called to it, being called to carry it is not only limited to beautiful things like reflecting and shining.
Those are important. But for this week, especially this week; don’t look away from the idea of suffering as a way for the light to get in.
Because maybe it’s your suffering you can’t look at right now. Maybe you’re drinking, scrolling, video-gaming, exercising, working to avoid facing the hurt.
Let’s look to the cross together and learn a lesson about suffering together.
Here’s the thing. Jesus had a choice. As both God and man, He had a choice to avoid the cross all together. Right? He could have said, God let’s do this another way. But In Luke 22:42 Jesus prays, “Father, take this cup from me. Not my will but yours be done.” Jesus chooses to pray. He is on his knees, knowing the stripping, lashing, spitting, nailing, bleeding ahead of Him; and offers his anguish for God’s will.
Jesus, the Son of God, was not exempt from suffering. He is why we do this. Jesus is my why. This look to the cross keeps me from reducing Jesus to some soft, romanticized glow-y god. He was broken down and shut out by this world and He persisted. He came for you. He came for me. This is Holy Suffering and I don’t want to miss it.
A thought that has stuck with me is from an interview when Jay Stringer said something like; we want to skip to the part where God saves the day. And the problem is we end up missing the gift of endurance modeled by Jesus. The gift of endurance. Let’s not miss that this time.
We Catholics mark out this week with very special and significant rituals on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Did we skip from Friday to Sunday? I always remember the Saturday before Easter as being quiet and sort of awkward. Jesus is dead. The world feels dark. Nothing but waiting on the egg hunting, Ham eating celebration of Easter Sunday.
There’s a lesson in the quiet waiting of Saturday I don’t want us to miss this Holy Week. If you’re suffering, the added waiting can feel like torture. I know this torturous stillness first hand.
So, let’s look at it differently together. We can’t skip the suffering and just celebrate the Resurrection. The suffering is built into the story. Not only that, it’s key to the story. Jesus modeled the endurance in a way my heart has a hard time grasping. And, God allowed it, saw it, redeemed it. We don’t have a soft God. We have a God who can endure the worst pain, suffer separation and loss, go through literal hell and make it back. All so the light of heaven can be ours.
These next days leading up to Easter; let’s promise to not spend them planning place settings or googling how to make it the best Easter Covid-style. Instead, click on either of these (Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-15:47, Luke 22-23:56, John 17-19:42) to sit at the cross and spend some time with Jesus. Wonder with Him what it felt like to be in the garden, what it was like to know the friend who would betray you was sitting at your table, what it was like to carry a cross of heavy wood on your raw and bloodied back, what it was like to hang there separated from the humans gawking below you and the God above who felt so far away. Questions are okay. God can handle them. In fact, God asks Adam (as in first human ever, hiding in shame because he messed up Adam), “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
Where are you in your suffering? Where are you in the waiting? Where are you looking?
Are you asking or God? Maybe this week take time to ask and listen and give God time to do the same with you.
Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12), is a healing, comforting, inviting light. And, it is His suffering that shows me the chasing, persisting, surrendering, bleeding, always loving, dying and rising light of Jesus.
I love that my Jesus can mix spit and dirt, rub that glop on a blind man’s eyes, and make him see. I love that my Jesus made friends with anyone and everyone. I love that my Jesus told good stories. I love that my Jesus can break through the gates of hell like a badass.
This week, letting the lesson of Holy Suffering sink in; I’m looking to my Jesus who would willingly collapse on a cross made of wood and be nailed to it for me.
Want to pray with me? God in Heaven, Nothing happens without passing through your beautiful hands. I can’t reconcile the hurt I see & feel here with your goodness. I want to trust. I want to hope – not just when it’s easy. Thank you for the gift of Jesus and His Holy Suffering. Allowing your Son to come here to save us, to save me is too much to take in sometimes. Give me the humility and persistence to accept the gift of endurance so I can really celebrate the promise of Easter. Give me the courage to ask questions, listen for answers, pray for your will God, see Jesus and not look away.