I love the joy of the Resurrection.
Easter is coming. Or, as some people call it, Resurrection Sunday. Once a year, people fill churches and gather around family dinner tables to celebrate, in my estimation, the best holiday of the year. Easter lilies line alter rails. Our best clothes splash color into the drab browns of early and middle spring. Daffodils dance and birds chirp the chant of nature: “He rose. He rose. He rose up from the dead!” Earth invites us to join: “He is risen. He is risen indeed!”
Even the story of the cross seems softened by the next chapter. We’ve already read ahead. In hindsight, we know the rest of the story. “Jesus lives!”
The Jews of Jesus’ time didn’t know the rest of the story.
Passersby hurled insults at Jesus as he hung on the cross. ““You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” The leaders goaded the crowd by their agreement: “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (See Matthew 27:38-44.)
Show us, Jesus. Show us you’re the Son of God. If you are, you’ll come down off that cross.
I wonder if the disciples thought the same sentiment, yet with less ridicule. I can imagine the anguished thought of a follower. “Oh yes, Jesus. Show them. Show them who you are. Come off that cross. Prove to us all that You, the powerful Son of God, can detach yourself from nails and wood. You who walked on water and fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, You can do this.”
But Jesus stood still and stayed silent. The crowds jeered and the disciples despaired.
God had a better idea. A much better idea.
If Jesus had come off that cross, yes, it would have proved his power. But it would not have accomplished his purpose. And, compared to what he had planned three days from then, jumping off the cross was child’s play and magician’s magic. If there is such a thing as a miracle scale, coming back to life from death ranks far higher than breaking the chains that tied him to an execution platform.
Jesus didn’t answer the taunts because He had something so much better in mind. His death would pay for the sins of mankind. His return to life would prove without a doubt His identify as the Son of God and give those with faith the promise of eternity. You can’t get any better than that.
The Jews of Jesus’ day set their sights too low.
I wonder if we approach God in our prayers like the Jews did.
God, If you are real, if you care, if You are really God, You’ll provide for me. You’ll heal. You’ll restore my spouse or my child. If You don’t, I don’t want to believe in You anymore.
I’ve heard people share that kind of sentiment. And like the silent grieving disciples, I’ve thought it too. God! This is what you do. You promised you would provide and protect. Show Yourself so I can glorify You before others. What glory can You get if I fail?
And the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, stands firm and stays silent. For He knows He has something much better for us. Something that will prove beyond a doubt who He is, how much He loves us, and what His bigger and better than ever plan might be. Something that holds the same power as the Resurrection.
And I realize that, like the Jews, I have set my sights too low.
Think of the times you have begged, pleaded, cajoled, and taunted God. Think of what you asked for. Why did you ask for it? What would be more impossible than what you wanted.
I would dearly love for my spouse to no longer suffer severe chronic pain. And yes, I sure hope I don’t lose any more vision. I would like God to heal P.C. and protect my vision. Living with less vision and a husband in constant pain sounds unbearable and impossible. But wait! That’s the kind of stuff God does – the impossible. Imagine the testimony that could be to the world. An older couple enduring pain and disability with grace and dignity, caring for others with love and compassion despite the personal obstacles they face. If they can do it, maybe I can too. I want to know the source of their strength.
Wouldn’t that shout the power of Christ far more than a physical healing? Wouldn’t that exemplify the character of Christ as described in Hebrews 12:2?
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2b
What impossible situation do you face? Is the alternative even more impossible? Let the crowded cross and the empty tomb speak to you of God’s specialized power to do the really impossible, and His willingness to give you and the world around you what we need most – His salvation, transformation, and gift of eternity.