Easter 2023: After Suffering Glory—The Last Word is Victory
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 abandoned me?"
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.
Suffering always 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 & 6:4 (MSG)
“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 of here.”
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.
Jesus suffered 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 so righteously.
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 can't wait!
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 with you.
Are you one who needs some encouragement in your Friday? You’re invited to come forward, some folks want to pray with you.
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