engage: grief mixed with intense joy
But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. Luke 9:43-45 | ESV
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 | ESV
Yes. What a week.
Having prepared through experiencing some solitude, silence, and focused attention in prayer, we now come to the crux of the week.
Actually, whether we have prepared or not, the crux – the cross – comes.
Two powerful dimensions converge in the cross of Christ: unbearable, unbelievable grief and suffering and intense, off-the-charts joy.
“You will be sorrowful, but the world will rejoice.”
And at the foot of the cross we, with Mary, laugh with tears. It seems incomprehensible. It certainly was for the disciples who witnessed it all-firsthand.
Jesus warned them in plain language repeatedly.
We are going to Jerusalem.
I will be rejected.
I will be betrayed.
I will be handed over to the Romans.
They will condemn me.
They will beat me.
They will crucify me.
They will kill me.
I will be buried.
And I will rise again on the third day.
But they couldn’t see it.
And when it came, they ran from it.
And we do the same.
We still seem to think that Christianity is all about joining in his triumphal procession on Palm Sunday to the accolades of the crowds and to kingdom come in Jerusalem (finally, this time!) rather than joining him in his death march to Golgotha, ending up forsaken and scorned by the world on the hill of the Skull.
We still imagine it’s about being piled on with blessings rather than stripped of everything. And few of us give or received the sermons those early preachers of Christianity passed on to new believers:
“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
If we thought Jesus took up the cross so we wouldn’t have to, he doesn’t quite let us get away with that. As he tells us of his cross, he hands us our own.
And then he calls it “discipleship.”
Engaging in the heart and life of Jesus is engaging in the grief and intense joy of the cross.
This is the real work and significance of Easter.
Life is hard, and this will be no exception.
But watch it explode with significance when Christ is in the center of it – not merely getting us out of our Gethsemanes and Golgothas, which will come, whoever we are – but empowering us to shine now and forever through them.
Yes, what a week.
What a life.
What Gethsemane, what Golgotha are you facing right now? Who is helping you bear your own cross?
Lord, give me the grace to embrace my own Gethsemane, my own cross, and let me find you in the midst of it. Let my grief be fully mingled with that intense joy that issues from you. As I contemplate your cross and sacrifice, let me not only be filled with gratitude for what you have done, but be empowered to embrace the path you have for me. Through Christ.