Friday, March 25, 2016

The Heartbreak {and Hope} of the Cross

Good Friday.

Today we celebrate the cross and all that it means for our faith. Good Friday holds a special place in my heart, of course because of the spiritual implications, but also because I can vividly remember the first Good Friday that the Lord began tugging at my heart, even as a young child.

Growing up, we used to always spend Good Friday with family. All of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at my grandparents' house for the traditional Good Friday meal: albondigas {salmon meatballs...I promise, they're good!} and capirotada {Mexican bread pudding}. We would then all pile into cars and head over to my grandparents' church to attend the annual Good Friday play, where members of the church would act out the passion of the Christ. It was always loud and intense, and I was often afraid of the shouting crowds, and the thunder and earthquake noises that came at the time of the Jesus actor's death.

We did this every year. But one particular year {before my parents and I had even become believers, so around age 7 or 8}, I remember being so overwhelmed by the production. After the play concluded {which ended after the burial of Jesus}, they always sang the song Were You There, When They Crucified My Lord? by candlelight. If I'm honest, it was always a little haunting. 

This particular year, I started sobbing uncontrollably; I can remember it so vividly. I remember repeating over and over through my tears, "But He didn't do anything wrong!" My dad asked me why I was so upset, and I remember telling him that I didn't understand why Jesus had to die. He didn't do anything wrong; why would they kill him? My little heart was literally breaking over it. 

That moment has stuck with me some 20+ years later. While I didn't truly understand the fulness of the gospel yet, it was as though I understood in that moment that it wasn't just a play, but that this actually happened 2,000 years ago. That a man named Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the world. That it was God's plan for His Son to suffer and die for the mean crowds that killed Him, even though He didn't do anything wrong. And I just was so overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. 

A short time later, the Lord did connect the dots for me, drawing me into a relationship with Him. As I reflect back on that Good Friday, I often ask myself if I still feel that overwhelmed by the cross, like I did as a young child. How often does my heart break over my sin and the immensity of God's love poured out for me that day? Is my heart still overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus died for my sins, even though He wasn't the one who did anything wrong?

As an adult, I now understand why He was crucified and why He had to die for my sins. My sin absolutely should tear me up inside, and I should take the time on Good Friday {and more often} to reflect on the immensity of God's love and wrath poured out that day. But I also understand now that Friday wasn't the end of the story. The church ended the play after Jesus' death and burial...but the resurrection was coming!

The heartbreak that was felt that Friday and the heartbreak I should feel over my sin was nailed to the cross and buried with Christ. But the cross always points to hope because of the resurrection. And I praise God that Friday wasn't the end of the story. Instead of death and heartbreak and sorrow, life and hope and redemption are the end of the story, because Sunday is coming!

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