It was a Friday, a long time ago. It will always be remembered as the darkest of days… All seemed hopeless, full of depressing darkness. Angry clouds billowed overhead. Even the flowers seemed to wilt. The Roman heel seemed poised to crush any dreams of freedom from oppression. Life was fragile and tenuous at best, and every family had felt death’s sting.
Into this time of great turmoil, hope began to breathe again. For a few years, a Man — more than a Man — showed them a glimpse of light within a dark world. Sick were made well! The lame were made whole! The blind saw again! Even the dead were raised to life! Here was a Man who knew their deepest desires, their most secret thoughts. Here was a Man who loved the most decrepit, most despised, most down-trodden. Here was a Man who spoke truths that penetrated even the hardest of hearts. He turned the focus of those who listened to Him from the physical to the eternal. For a few short years, Heaven seemed nearer. An awe-inspiring, Ten Commandment, full of justice-God humbled Himself to relate to mankind in the fragility of their humanity. God became man in all his weaknesses but without the ability to sin.
This Man-God experienced the anguish of facing the vulnerability of death and the despair of separation from a Just and Holy, Heavenly Father during his excruciating hours upon a splintered cross, while bearing the load of a whole world’s sin and guilt upon Himself. While blood and sweat blurred his gaze, searing pain from skin ripping and tendons tearing sent dizzying waves of pain across frayed nerve endings, this Man-God endured mocking scorn from those who even yet could not comprehend an all-powerful God submitting to the death of a slave and criminal. Those who rejected this God-Man clung to the darkness of their unbelief, to their traditions and religious trappings rather than accepting a God who came not in the regal robes of a ruler but slid from the bloody womb of a peasant girl while struggling to gasp His first breath. They could not comprehend a God who would leave a home of unparalleled riches and glory and homage to enter a world gone mad with greed, death, sickness, and social injustice on every level. By accepting that God could humble Himself so completely, they would need to accept a love so great and so encompassing that their undivided loyalty would be required. For God to sacrifice His very own Son, for this Son to sacrifice His very own life would represent an almost incomprehensible level of loving sacrifice — more than man could ever imagine. A love so great required a vulnerability and allegiance that not every recipient was willing to yield.
True love requires a yielding and vulnerability.
It is easier to accept superficial representations as the genuine when complacency and mediocrity is the only requirement. Yet, this very complacency, this very mediocrity produces endless monotony, stunted character-growth, shallow goals, and reflections of emptiness at the end of a life.
People then and people now have experienced this reflection of emptiness and hopelessness. On that Friday a few thousand years ago, life was at its very bleakest. It was even worse — to go from such high hopes and then to have them crushed so completely. Heaven seemed billions of light years away, unattainable. Darkness had never been darker than when the solitary figure hung stiff and still upon a crude cross. When a large boulder blocked the entrance of the tomb and the ruler’s own seal insured that no one would disturb the grave for fear of his own quick and tormented demise, only the darkest of despair remained. For two whole nights and a full day, all life anguished. But on the third day, a startling discovery transformed the darkest of nights into the brightest of mornings!
Angels, clothed in garments of brilliant light, guarded a now empty tomb. The grave clothes still lay in place, hardened by the spices and dried blood of the body that had once lain entombed within … the contours of the body still visible. The huge boulder was rolled away! The soldiers had fainted in fright. The governor’s seal was broken. This was no amateur attempt at grave-robbing. His followers were still hiding away in fear and in despair.
The fear of Jesus’ followers would soon disappear in the face of overwhelming evidence that Jesus’ words had been literal. “He would rise from the dead!” He did rise from the dead! These first witnesses would suffer terrible deaths and persecution with unflinching dedication, giving credence to their message that the God-Man had indeed risen from the dead! From that Sunday on, their lives would no longer be marked with doubts, despair, darkness, and defeat. It was the celebration of that first Easter Sunday — the message of that first Easter — that would empower them and transform each of Jesus’ followers into “beacons” of ardent light. These followers would share a message that has transformed millions of lives and still does thousands of years later. It is a message of Love, lighting the way from man to God.
Accepting so great a love means letting go of my own feelings of pride in thinking that His love is based on my own merit or worthiness. It means letting go of clinging to my own feelings of guilt and inadequacy. It means experiencing a love so all-consuming, so all-encompassing that the brilliance of it reaches into the darkest crevasses of my heart, the last vestiges of my pride, and reveals a love so dazzling that it can only be compared with light itself. The Love of this God-Man penetrates and peels back the layers of hard outer shells that we wrap our most vulnerable hopes and dreams and needs within. Where once there was darkness, there is now effulgent illumination. Where once there was confusion and doubts, His Love has brought clarification, peace, and incandescent joy!