Around the year AD 30, a man from Nazareth in Israel named Jesus came preaching a message of hope and salvation and of a new order of reality called "The Kingdom of God." As he walked and taught throughout Israel, he embodied this message by healing the ill, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind, and welcoming the marginalized of society--those who had been rejected by everyone else.
His message of a new kind of kingdom challenged the power of the authorities of the world and so one day, in fact, this day, the world rejected Jesus.
Though his followers thought and hoped that he would rise against and defeat Rome with his might or by some elaborate coercive action, now they found themselves witnessing his death and failure. They watched their savior be mocked, beaten, tortured, and killed in the worst kind of way as an example of what happens to those who oppose the order of things and Rome's version of "peace."
As they watched Jesus suffer and die, they watched all their dreams die with him, they watched their entire imagination for the world--the future toward which they'd pressed--die with their savior.
Put yourself in the shoes of those first followers. Imagine the sorrow, the hopelessness, the disappointment, the utter fear they must have felt as they watched the man they loved the most and the dream to which they had devoted their whole lives be mocked and murdered.
Now, looking ahead (something I don't always like to do on Good Friday), many of us know how this story ends... After the resurrection we find ourselves saying "ah-ha, now it all makes sense" (at least sort of). We know from his resurrection that all of those little hints we were given about Jesus' death and his shared identity with God were true. We know that in Christ's death, God was redeeming the whole world by sharing our suffering so that he could defeat it once and for all.
Now, looking back at the cross, from the vantage point of the resurrection, we see God on the cross. We remember the utter hopelessness and failure of the cross but we see that that is right where God meets us, in our failure and our hopelessness. We see God allowing death to do its' worst to him only to show that the grave cannot hold him.
Tonight we remember Jesus' suffering and God's presence on the cross. And we also remember our own suffering. We bring into the open our own sense of guilt and failure, our pain and our suffering and we lay it at the cross, allowing our own story of grief and pain to be caught up in God's story of grief and pain whereby it may be healed and redeemed, giving way to new creativity and a new future.
On the cross, the God of all creation was rejected. He let death do its' worst to him but the grave could not hold him. Jesus defeated death and now he invites us to follow him to the cross in freedom so that we may find resurrection on the other side.
In Jesus, our sin has been forgiven and our pain has been redeemed. We are a new creation in Christ. May we let our pain be caught up in Jesus' victory and may we follow Him on the cross-shaped path of love.