From an early age, we’re taught that what people think of us is based largely on our performance. Teachers, parents, coaches, and peers all seem happier with us and affirm us when we stand out as good students, athletes, musicians, or obedient children. Most jobs reinforce this. The more I can impress and prove my worth, the more secure my job and future is.
First off, I took this picture several years ago in southern France (Nice). I was walking through the remains of a very old stone fortress. As the sun burst into the darkness, I was reminded that there was once a dark morning and empty tomb that exploded with light. It created a moment of awe, thankfulness, and joy. This week and weekend provides us a great opportunity to reflect on and rejoice in that weekend two-thousand years ago.
But even for us as Christians, it’s easy to spend more time focusing on the holidays than the meaning behind those holidays. Usually with Easter, there are travel plans, cleaning, meals to make, and candy to buy. This year, a lot of that has changed and Easter will have a bit of a bittersweet flavor as so many of us celebrate alone. Hopefully, even this reminds us this is not forever but we have true and living hope that separation, fear, sickness, and death does not have the ultimate say. Jesus–the one who conquered the grave, reigns from heaven, and will soon return–has the ultimate say.
On Good Friday, we remember the death of the Son of God on a bloody and horrific cross. It seems paradoxical to call such a day Good Friday. How can a day focused on death and suffering be good? How can Jesus being rejected by his people and tortured on a Roman cross be good? To understand more of this mystery, and what Good Friday is all about, it might help to wade deeper into the pool of theology by considering the meaning of the cross. Ultimate victory was at work in initial defeat.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection stand at the center of the “good news” Christians stake their lives upon. The Bible joins the bloody cross and empty tomb as two distinct but inseparable events. And yet, many of our gospel presentations and theological conversations refer to the cross as the place where salvation was fully accomplished and the deal was sealed. Christ’s resurrection is either left out or tacked on as the cherry on top. I’m thankful evangelicals have been “cross-centered” but it’s unfortunate we’ve moved the resurrection to the periphery.
Like any good narrative, the Bible uses literary devices such as metaphors, double-meanings, paradoxes, and irony. The New Testament authors often used irony to draw out the difference between how mankind sees things and how God sees things. Irony shows the sharp contrast between expectations and realities as well as between intent and effect. A third way authors employ irony is to highlight something the readers know that the characters in the story would have been unaware of. In Colossians 2:13-15 Paul provides at least four ironies tied to the cross of Jesus Christ.