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The Powerful Joy of Good Friday

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luke 22:42 (NIV)

Good Friday. The day we celebrate and mourn Jesus' long walk to Calvary. Bloodied, beaten and stumbling under the weight of the Cross, Jesus certainly looks defeated.

When I was young, I felt sorry for the Jesus of Friday. I imagined Him weakened and misunderstood, fearful and unsure of His choice. Perhaps, I misunderstood His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of His arrest when He pleaded with the Father to remove the unbearable cup. I imagined the shame of the nakedness and taunts clinging to Him making His humiliation and pain all the more unbearable. I suppose if I was honest, I was a little embarrassed for this Jesus. I felt sorry the 'good' Father would seemingly turn a deaf ear to His own Son's cry and not remove the cup of suffering and provide another way.

I never allowed myself to linger too long in this moment. I would immediately skip to Sunday. The story only being made bearable by not lingering in Friday and certainly not sitting in the uncertainty of Saturday. I know some people are not 'read the end of the book first' type people and I am usually not unless the story gets too intense. If it does, I quickly check the back so I can relieve the tension of the in-between. I do admit though, relieving the tension causes me to miss the beauty of the story. I am learning to live in the tension of the death of Friday and the disillusionment of Saturday.  As I sit in this uncomfortable space, I witness something else.

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Jesus sits, bloody sweat dripping from His brow. Rocking back and forth as He kneels before the Father knowing His death is soon and Judas' betrayal is sooner. His love for Judas not diminished, but its intensity making the betrayal more hellish. The Jesus who came to heal, seek and save sits mourning the coming loss and betrayal of one He loves personally. Glancing at the sleeping disciples - the ones He gave His life to, lived with, worked with, taught and loved - His heart breaking at their coming pain and confusion. In halting breaths, He hopes and pleads there is another way and when He knows there is not, He chooses. The power of chosen, reconciling love setting out to defeat death, sin, and shame. And then He is arrested. 

He chooses love. He chooses the way of the Father for reconciliation with us. He chooses me. He chooses you. The arrest, the humiliation, the pain, the Cross not happening to Him but being chosen by Him. None of it a match for the wide and long, high and deep love of God. The taunts not beyond His control, the questions not too hard for Him and the nakedness exposing all the more His heart for us. The choice bearing witness as His body is beaten and bruised, exposed and ridiculed. Love chosen becoming love displayed. 

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As I stand here on that road watching Him walk by in my mind, I see something I never saw before. Along with  resoluteness, willingness, humility and love, I see something unexpected. Joy. Joy making the enduring possible. I see Him scorning shame knowing it will not overtake, but be overcome; not only for Him, but for the ones His mind is set on. You and Me. On that deadly Friday, the thought of you gave Jesus the joy that made the long walk to Calvary worth it and endurable. I see Him fixing His mind on the faces of the ones He loves, and the joy He shares with the Father at the coming reconciliation of God and man. Jeers, taunts and misunderstandings hurling with the full force of hatred at Him, but the joy of what is coming louder, truer and making every step on the road worth it. Each step closer than the last to reconciliation and love realized. And finally the Cross. Nailed and hanging, He declares, "It is finished!" A final cry of triumph sounding like defeat to some nearby, but Sunday is coming. Love has overcome.

No longer do I see a weak and defeated Jesus on Friday, but instead I see the gentle, lowly, joyful and powerful Jesus walking that road for me and for you - not in defeat, but with chosen love and anticipating joy. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 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 12:1-2