“Then the angel spoke to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid!” he said, ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” Matthew 28:5-6, NLT
As I sat in silence on the morning of Good Friday, I heard the familiar chirping of a bird and then the thunderstorm began. The rolling sounds of thunder and the flashes of lightning brought the horrors and terrors of the war in Ukraine to mind. Good Friday is a day when we encounter the horrors of sin and evil. The pain and suffering Jesus suffered on the cross more than 2000 years ago, revealed the depths of inhumanity in human hearts. The unseen bird continued singing through the thunderstorm – a song assuring me of the faithfulness of God’s steadfast love which endures forever.
We are living in chaotic and unpredictable times and life can seem meaningless, purposeless, unfair and unjust. In such difficult times, we are filled with doubts and we feel hopeless and helpless. In these times we are drawn to our need for a confident and sustaining faith in a power beyond ourselves to deliver us from despair. We need the power of love that always trump evil. And this power can only be experienced in our powerlessness and helplessness.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples were unable to keep watch with Jesus as he wrestled in prayer to surrender his human will. Jesus then took the way of the cross to fulfill God’s perfect will. God knows that our spirits may be willing but our flesh is weak.1 Jesus died on the cross so that we can now watch and pray with him because he is watching and praying for us through the Holy Spirit:
”And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”2
On Good Friday, Jesus went through the hell of experiencing the absence of God on the cross when he cried out on our behalf, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”3 Jesus expressed our perfectly normal and human cry to pain, suffering and grief. It was the perfect example of what authentic prayer is. Prayer is not giving God a laundry list of our personal needs or the problems of the world that needed to be solved. True prayer is the honest and intimate confession of our fears, doubts, anger and guilt to our Heavenly Father. We may feel abandoned by God but Jesus died and rose from the dead to assure us that God will never abandon us:
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4
Life from the human perspective is like a game of snakes and ladders. We climb up ladders of material and spiritual success only to slither down the snakes of our lust, pride, greed, anger, envy, gluttony, acedia, fear and guilt. Jesus came to give us God’s perspective of life – to live the cruciform life as God’s beloved. Jesus died on the cross so that we can stop trying to do good to feel good. We are empowered to do good when the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with the joy of salvation.
The silence of Holy Saturday after Good Friday is a time to prepare for the resurrection of Christ in our hearts at Easter. Silence is not trying to empty our minds – it is being attentive to our noisy thoughts and letting them go. Silence is spending time with God by resting in Christ to wait for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with the love of God. We need not fear the silence of a mind that is waiting on God. It was a frightening experience for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary when the angel rolled aside the stone of the tomb. But the angel told them not to be afraid as Jesus has risen from the dead.5
We cannot find Jesus when our mind is entombed by fears, guilt, doubts and other negative thoughts. The practice of silence is the practice of giving our everything to God by doing nothing. It is a journey into the Galilee of our hearts. When Jesus met the disciples on their way to the tomb, he told them not to be afraid but to leave for Galilee to see him there.6
The empty tomb of Jesus is a metaphor of life after death – when we die, we leave our bodies just as a butterfly leaves the chrysalis. We will find true life when the Holy Spirit rolls away the stone of the tomb of a worldly life. As “spiritual butterflies” we can watch with Jesus the “monkey thoughts” flying through our restless “caterpillar minds.” Just as Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in our hearts, Easter isn’t Easter till our hearts have been set on fire with the flame of God’s love and our minds transformed by the power of the resurrection. Then we can truly sing:
I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.7
Lord, thank You for rolling away the stones of fear, doubts and guilt in my life. Fill my heart with the flame of Your love and rewire my mind with the power of Your resurrection.
- What are the negative thoughts that have been entombed in my mind?
- What ladders of success am I trying to climb?
- What are the “snakes” that are drawing me away from the love of God?
Song of Praise
- Matthew 26:36-46, NLT
- Romans 12:26-27, NLT
- Matthew 27:46, NLT
- Romans 8:38-39, NLT
- Matthew 28:5-6, NLT
- Matthew 28:8-10, NLT
- He Lives, Alan Jackson