The Easter story is an unexpected injection of hope in a world gone mad with power and violence.
Jesus found himself in the middle of much of it: on one hand he refused to be corralled by the politics of a militant empire; on the other hand he criticized the selfish actions of the religious systems.
He was a troublemaker and he threatened peace and safety.
So they killed him.
~ ~ ~
There was nothing good about Good Friday.
Jesus had become the disciple’s greatest hope, the centre of their lives, yet he was arrested, tortured, and killed before their eyes. Like many others before, he had succumbed to the weight of the hatred around him.
On the other hand, everything was good about Easter Sunday.
The same disciples discovered an empty tomb and began to wrestle with what that meant. They were witnesses to another way of thinking; a new kind of life.
Then there was Holy Saturday, as it’s called – an awkward day wedged between the depression of Friday and the euphoria of Sunday. The Saturday in Jerusalem would have been an unusually quiet one and it seems the disciples remained mostly secluded. I’m sure it seemed like a lost, rudderless day but it was important for an unexpected reason.
These hurting people needed to grieve.
In one sense I’m no authority on grief but in another sense I am an expert because I’ve lived through it. When Cheryl and I met and shared our first coffee together our grief was the central topic.
It’s fair to say that losing someone close to you means losing a part of your own life, leaving a permanent scar on your soul. There is no way to prepare for it or to do it well – you just cry, and hurt, and feel empty, and stumble forward.
Of course grief is not about the one who is gone, they are in the arms of Jesus. Rather, grief is about us and the shattering of our normal, our comfort, our meaning.
It is the loss of our past (as we recall it), a complicated mix of hallowing what we have known and accepting that it won’t exist again. That leads us to the other end of grief: it is also the loss of our plans, hopes, dreams, expectations. We are forced to rethink our future – our imagined future.
That is why grief is necessary. It’s a safety valve and a way to process our crumbling world at our own speed. The classic ‘five stages of grief’ begin with denial then eventually arrive at acceptance (though not willingly at first). Without grief we can’t continue to grow. Our instinct is to do just that – stop and try to reach back – but we know that stopping means death for us too and so we feel trapped.
Grief is a horrible path but it is the only path if we are to accept the truth and move forward in life. In that sense, grief saves us and prepares us.
It will be necessary to grieve the effects of Covid-19: the deaths, the financial toll, the loss of ‘normal’. But there are some who are already looking back, hoping for life to return to that normal, not realizing that we never can and never should.
In fact, the world needs more grieving: mourning what is past, then finding a better way forward. I know I’m an idealist but what if people could learn to both treasure and release what is behind them so they could treasure and embrace what is ahead of them?
What if nations could grieve after engaging in war? Fully mourn the dead, honour the heroes, forgive the enemy, and put it behind them in order to seek a healthy, permanent peace?
What if races, societies, political leaders, could learn to grieve together? They could share each other’s loss, then build something better together.
If we could grieve our loss of culture there would be no need to ‘make our country great again’. Instead, we would gratefully grieve the loss of yesteryear, then work together for an even greater future.
What if we could grieve the passing of church as we know it? What if we need to grieve the systems, strategies, and comforts of what used to be in order to turn around and let God do a new, unimaginable thing? That is what the first disciples had to do.
Sadly, many of us may still need to grieve: the money we lost, the marriage that didn’t work, the child we didn’t have, the broken friendship, the mistake we made, the goodbye we didn’t say, the hopes that are gone.
We hate grief but we have to wander away from what was in order to discover what can be.
That Saturday before Easter was only one day but it represents the importance of taking the time to grieve. I believe the disciples needed it in order to catch their breath and review who they were and what Jesus meant to them. That day of grieving broke their dependance on who they thought Jesus was and prepared them to live forward for the real Jesus.
Perhaps you are grieving in some way. Perhaps you still need to grieve. Grief isn’t ignoring or forgetting, rather it is finding a way to love and embrace the next version of your life.
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. “ – Jesus, the day before his crucifixion (John 16:20, NLT)
~ ~ ~
We received word a few days ago of the passing of a friend, Jerry Wallace. Jerry was humble, creative, a joyful Christian, and he will be sorely missed by his family and many friends from a lifetime of service. Please pray for his wife Bonnie and his children and grandchildren who are now experiencing the necessary journey of grief.