"On the cross we see the true nature and character of God: one who is willing to absorb our messiness and hatred, while responding in love."
A Good Friday reflection from blogger Benjamin L. Corey, and an invitation to follow in Jesus' footsteps.
As someone who makes his living writing books and giving talks, I am well aware that all compelling stories are marked by a meaningful introduction and conclusion. How one introduces the story, and how one ends the story, has the ability to send a message that will reverberate long after the story is over.
I have come to believe that the story God has been writing is no different. As Holy Week draws to a close, I find myself meditating more and more on the significance of how the Jesus story begins and ends, and the significant message that lies within that.
Born amidst straw and stubble as a peasant in First Century Palestine, the Jesus story begins with God entering into the messiness of humanity. Between the overwhelming stress of being travelers without a comfortable place to stay, the exhaustion from a long journey, and the smell of animals that surrounded the birth pains, God became flesh and joined humanity amidst our messiness and suffering.
As the Jesus story ends, we see the same message we saw at the beginning of the story: God himself enters into our messiness and suffering.
On the cross, we see God himself donning flesh and experiencing the worst messiness and suffering humanity has to offer.
We see God himself not just entering into our messiness and brokenness, but we see him become the scapegoat and absorbing all the violence and wrath we extended toward him.
The Jesus story begins with God entering into human messiness, and the story ends with God absorbing that messiness into himself—so that suffering and human messiness could give birth to something far more.
And yet, as he hung on the cross and experienced the worst that this world could offer, his mind was not on himself, but others.
We see him ensuring that his mother would be cared for after his death.
We see him praying forgiveness over his enemies.
On the cross we see the true nature and character of God: one who is willing to absorb our messiness and hatred, while responding in love.
Since God himself has entered into the depths of our despair, and the worst messiness the human condition can offer, we can take heart that when we suffer he is present in our suffering. Conversely, when we see others suffering, we are invited to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by coming alongside them and being present—just as God is with us.
God does not shy away from our messiness, but joins it.
God does not look away from our suffering, but participates in this “fellowship of suffering.”
God does not leave us abandoned and helpless, but comes to us.
Christians, by definition, do the same thing for others as we fulfill the command to be imitators of Christ. We reveal God’s character and nature through the love we extend to those in the world around us, and by entering into the painful and messy lives of others.
On this Good Friday, my prayer for us as believers is that we will reflect on the significance of how the Jesus story begins and ends: by God himself refusing to stay distant, but instead entering into human suffering so that something better might be born from it.
Perhaps even more, I pray that we will have the courage to follow the example of Christ as expressed in 1 Peter 2:21:
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (NLT)
One of the ways that I join with others in their messiness and suffering is by sponsoring children through World Vision. As someone who has had the opportunity to travel with World Vision and see first-hand the wonderful work they are doing, I’ve witnessed the way that just a small monthly donation is literally changing lives and bringing hope amidst suffering.
From meeting children who have received much needed medical care because of a sponsor, widows raising children who couldn’t do it without a sponsor, to children attending school and preparing for a future, the impact of child sponsorship is something where the full impact will only be known in eternity.
Yes, today I’ll be reflecting on the cross—but I’ll also be reflecting on ways that we can continue to enter into the suffering and messiness of life with those in the world around us, as we follow the example Jesus has given us. Because when we join in with others, hope rises from ashes and the beauty of God’s Kingdom intensifies.
In remembrance of what Christ has done for us, will you join me in changing the life of a child waiting for a sponsor? You can begin your child sponsorship right here: