Easter 2023: After Suffering Glory—The Last Word is Victory
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son,
his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by
believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go
to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger,
telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right
again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…
Philippians 2:6-8 (MSG)
[Jesus] had equal status with God but didn't think so much
of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter
what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and
took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed
human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special
privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a
selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Isaiah 53:1-3 (MSG)
Who would have thought God's saving power would look like
this? The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a
parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to
take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered,
who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down
on him, thought he was scum.
Isaiah 53:6-9 (MSG)
…everything we've done wrong, [piled] on him, on him. He was
beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be
slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice
miscarried, and he was led off…He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten
bloody for the sins of [humanity]…Even though he'd never hurt a soul or said
one word that wasn't true.
Luke 23:33-38 (MSG)
When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified
him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they
don't know what they're doing." Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice
for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made
faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah
of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!" The
soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted
him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"
Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews.
Matthew 27:45-46 (MSG)
From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. 46 Around
mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eli, Eli,
lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you
John 19:31-34 (MSG)
Then the Jews, since it was the day of Sabbath preparation,
and so the bodies wouldn't stay on the crosses over the Sabbath (it was a high
holy day that year), petitioned Pilate that their legs be broken to speed
death, and the bodies taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of
the first man crucified with Jesus, and then the other. When they got to Jesus,
they saw that he was already dead, so they didn't break his legs. One of the
soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out.
Mark 15:42-46 (MSG)
Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation
(that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the
Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the
kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus'
body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the
captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave
Joseph the corpse.
Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him
down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into
the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening.
It’s Friday, it’s a
day of tears, a day of hopes destroyed, a day of pain, and confusion. It’s Friday, a day of injustice, and cruelty.
It’s Friday, the sky is dark, evil is laughing, and hearts have been broken.
It’s Friday, a day of fear, anxiety, and depression. It’s Friday, a day of suffering.
Suffering. There are many kinds of suffering. Natural suffering is what happens just
because we live in a world broken by sin.
Things are not the way God intended for them to be (Romans 8:22). This includes disaster, disease, and death. Making
the wrong choice can lead to suffering like banking with Silicon Valley
Bank. We are just going about our life,
and we are devastated by some event.
There is Testimonial Suffering.
Testimonial suffering is when you are persecuted for your faith. You’ve taken a Kingdom Stand on societal
issues and the good you are doing is met with hatred. There is Sympathetic Suffering. Sympathetic
suffering is the distress in your soul that is the result of coming into
contact with evil, hate, injustice, and the pain that others are afflicted
with. “Each new friendship you form,
each new convert you win, each new injustice in the social order you come in
contact with, each new sin in others to which you expose yourself, …becomes a
possible suffering point” (E. Stanley Jones, Victorious Living, p 298). Jesus experienced natural, testimonial, and
sympathetic suffering. There is one kind of suffering Jesus did not experience
personally and that is Disobedience Suffering, the suffering that comes from
breaking the Will of God. Hungry, tired,
and lonely: natural suffering.
Misunderstood, maligned, and rejected: testimonial suffering. The diseased, the possessed, the dead, the
shepherdess, and betrayed: sympathetic suffering. Jesus lived with suffering.
serves as a wake-up call that we are not as strong or secure as we thought we
were. We are forced to stare into Don
Quiote’s Mirror of Truth and that vision of reality can shake us. We are forced to confront reality with our
limitations. In suffering, we are shaken by the truth of how vulnerable we are.
During the Fridays of life, you realize that you need more than what you have
to get through the day.
The Fridays of the
human experience are universal. Everyone
at one time or another will experience the pain, anguish, and distress that we
feel when we face difficulties or challenges in our lives. You may be
experiencing a Friday right now; “isolation, despair, and hopelessness. When you
are in the midst of intense pain or distress, it can be difficult to see a way
out of your suffering. It may seem as though there is no escape from your
circumstances, and you may feel as though you are alone in your pain” (Chat
GPT, 3 Mar 23). “My God, why have you
forsaken me?” that’s the way it feels on Friday.
Are you living in a
Friday right now?
Psalms 10:1, 130:1-2 &
“God, are you
avoiding me? Where are you when I need you?” “Help, God—the bottom has fallen
out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen
to my cries for mercy.” “Break in, God … if you love me at all, get me out
If you are living in
a Friday right now, there is hope.
All of Jesus’
suffering became a cross (Jones, p.298). But a cross did not have the last
word. Six centuries before Jesus’ time
the Prophet wrote: “Out of that terrible travail of soul, he'll see that it's
worth it and be glad he did it” (Isaiah 53:11 (MSG). The Prophecy has come to pass and through 21
centuries the cry has been “HE IS RISEN.”
Matthew 28:1-6 (MSG)
After the Sabbath, as
the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came
to keep vigil at the tomb. 2 Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their
feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were
standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. 3 Shafts of lightning
blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white…The angel spoke to the
women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus,
the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he
said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
righteously and there was a victory. Not
only was the victory for Him in the resurrection, but His suffering also became
a means of grace to all who believe to be set right with God. The whole human race was under a curse that
separated each individual from the life and light of God. The result of the curse is that each of us
decides what is good or evil based on our desires and experiences (Isaiah
53:6). Those choices have created the
distorted world in which we live today (Romans 5:12-14). God intended for humanity to live in an Eden,
in a right relationship with Him, flourishing in His love, and the company of
one another. When you experienced a
relationship that may have started good but descended into disaster this is
because of the curse of sin. Sin is anything that deters, damages, or destroys
a right relationship with God, with Others, and with Yourself. In this broken world, we are victims and
perpetrators and perpetuators of the curse of sin (James 1:14). But the
scripture proclaims that Jesus makes it possible for you to be redeemed from
the curse (Romans 5:12-21, Galatians 3:13, Revelation 22:3). Adam the representative of the entire human
race chose self over obedience, ego over fidelity, doing life his way instead
of God’s way, his punishment fell upon us all (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Jesus, the new representative of humanity (1
Corinthians 15:45-49), chose obedience, fidelity, and to do life God’s way
(Philippians 2:8), and selflessly made atonement for Adam's sin so that anyone
who believes (1 John 2:2) that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John
14: 6), and determines to follow Jesus, to become like Jesus (Matthew
16:24-26), can experience the removal of the curse, the forgiveness of sins (1
John 1:9), reconcile their relationship with God, and the chance to live their
life to the full (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 10:10). Jesus’ suffering made it
possible for you to experience eternal life, a right relationship with God
(John 17:3). Your part is to bend your
knee to Jesus, give him Lordship of your life, set your heart and mind on
serving Him, and ask God to make it so.
Are you at a point in your life where you need to experience these
blessings of God? If you are, you have
already been given the power to make the choice. If you want to follow Jesus
into victory you can. You choose right
now at this moment, what are you going to do? It often takes a Friday to help
you see your need.
When you are
following Jesus, you are empowered to transform your Fridays into victories.
Personal suffering is transformed into victory when in faith you entrust it all
to God. As a committed follower of
Jesus, the horrible Friday in your life right now can be overcome and
transformed and maybe even used as a stepping stone to greater blessings. Take
your Friday suffering and turn it into a cross and bear it well (Matthew
16:24026). You are already suffering, do
To suffer righteously
make sure your Friday is not the result of disobedience. When a follower of
Jesus does not engage in doing the will of God, unnecessary problems
happen. If you have gotten yourself into
the Friday you are in because of your unwillingness to do life God’s way, you
must correct this behavior. Discover what you are doing wrong, and maybe find a
verse of scripture that reveals the wrong behavior you find yourself enmeshed.
Or better yet a verse that reflects who you want to be. Agree with God that what you are doing is
wrong. If there is a fallout from your
behavior, go and make it right. Then ask God to forgive you. God will forgive, but there may be
consequences that you will have to work through. Work through them in a manner worthy of the
Gospel of Christ. Lean on the Holy
Spirit to give you guidance and power to get through the day until you can
resolve the situation. Gain wisdom from
your disobedience and use that wisdom to help others from falling into the same
trap. Get the victory over sin and keep following Jesus.
With all the Fridays
caused by natural suffering, testimonial suffering, or sympathetic suffering
they are all dealt with a lament, with faith, and with action. The lament is
your complaint that things are not good with you. The lament can take on many forms, the most
prevalent is asking the Why question. With natural suffering, there is no
answer to the Why question (Psalm 22:2) other than we live in a broken world. With testimonial suffering, you have taken a
stand for Christ in society and you are being persecuted. With sympathetic suffering you have
identified with those who are afflicted, their pain has become yours. To move on carrying you’re cross you suffer
with lament, with faith, and with action.
The lament is your
confusion articulated. The lament is your statement of grief. The lament is
your cry for help.
Psalms 102:1-2 (MSG)
God, listen! Listen
to my prayer, listen to the pain in my cries. Don't turn your back on me just
when I need you so desperately. Pay attention! This is a cry for help! And hurry—this
Faith that transcends
suffering is the faith that makes it possible for you to entrust your entire
self to God. Faith says “God has got
this, He will do what I cannot.” The opposite
of faith is not doubt, it’s despair.
Despair means you see no hope for relieving the suffering you are in. “In
despair, we give up on our relationship with God. Doubt, on the other hand, is
a sign that our faith is alive and kicking; it is part of the rhythm of faith
itself. Lament is not a failure of
faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we
know that our relationship with God counts; it counts to us and it counts to
God.” [ https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/biblical-laments-prayer-out-of-pain/ ] He will never
leave or forsake. Faith allows you to
face suffering with God, you know God has not deserted you and can work some
good out of the bad situation (Romans 8:28).
You may even wonder how any good can come out of the situation, but what
is impossible for you, is possible for God (Luke 18:17). Faith empowers you to
look forward with hope to the impossible happening.
You transcend your
suffering with action. It was Winston
Churchill who said and Rodney Atkins who sang:
“If You’re going through hell, keep on going.” This is a call to
action. Discover what you can do to
alleviate the suffering and then do it. If you don’t know what to do, ask for
God’s direction, and then make a decision.
The wise do this: They trust in
God with all their heart, they don’t try to figure out everything on their own,
and in every decision they acknowledge God, and the scripture says that God
will direct (Proverbs 3:5-6). Action requires identifying the real problem,
making goals that will alleviate the problem, making plans to reach the goal,
and then work the plan.
Your lament, your
faith, and your action will get you through your Friday to your Sunday. We have the ultimate example in Jesus, all
his suffering became the cross on his Friday, and because he suffered
righteously, the One Jesus called Father, rewarded Him with a resurrection. Make all your suffering into a cross, pick it
up, suffer righteously, and follow Jesus.
One day, you will see victory, and like Jesus, “out of that terrible
travail of soul, [you’ll] see that it's worth it and be glad [you] did it.”
Are you one who today
needs to make their decision to bend the knee to Jesus? You’re invited to come forward and make that
decision public. Some folks want to pray
Are you one who needs
some encouragement in your Friday? You’re invited to come forward, some folks
want to pray with you.