The Three Longest Nights

In our day of binge-watching entire seasons of our favorite tv shows and virtually limitless on-demand entertainment options, three days and three nights of silence and fear and hiding is next to impossible to really comprehend. But I suggest to you that, even in a starkly slower time, the followers of Jesus found those three days and nights between Jesus’ burial and resurrection to last for what seemed like years.

[Side note: I realize that our tradition is to observe Good Friday as the day of the week of Jesus’ crucifixion and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I also recognize that Jesus said that it would be three days and three nights. The whole discussion is a matter for another context.]

For three days and nights the disciples were trying to wrap their heads and hearts around the notion that Jesus simply was not who they thought him to be. No doubt they lay sleepless in the dark night wonder how they could misunderstand, why things had gone the way they had, and were the soldiers coming for them next?

The fear and uncertainty mingled powerfully with the pure grief that came with the loss of this man who was a friend like none they had ever known – the One who had fed thousands through the very hands of these who now stayed hidden behind locked doors. The hope that less than a week before had moved them to spread their cloaks on the ground as a makeshift carpet and shout with the joyous, “Hosanna,” had vanished.

But, come Sunday morning, everything was seen to be different than it seemed.

In these hard days and gut-wrenching nights, could we have the spiritual gumption to step back and look beyond our heartache to see the certainty of what is surely to be? Can we, through the eyes of faith embrace the hope built entirely on the very nature of the One who proved His love and faithfulness through the cross and the empty tomb?

In the assurance of His promise, even the longest nights are a temporary trouble.

He Nailed It.

It’s been a hard season in our neck of the proverbial woods. There have been so many heartaches and headaches and crises galore… and layoffs…collapses…and lives coming to an unexpected end.

And in the midst of the struggles I find myself reflecting on the perpetual question in hard times…”why?”

And as soon as I ask it the answer comes pounding through my mind. The world is a broken place because of the innate self-fixation that is a part of us all. And that makes me think about my own failures. My sin.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every bad thing that happens is the direct result of some poor decision or sinful choice or thought on my part. I am saying that the hard or bad things in this life make me very conscious of my sin.

But I’ve been exploring the passion week of Jesus over these last few weeks. That exploration coupled with this greater consciousness of sin has combined in another of those “soundtrack moments” that I write about from time to time.

This time the song doesn’t show up on my easter-themed playlist. It’s ┬ánot even the chorus or hook of a song. It’s the third stanza of a classic hymn:

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought

My sin, not in part, but the whole

Was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

“It Is Well With My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford

I can’t get over this lyric and the profound truth it reflects. In the midst of this powerful hymn that resounds, “It is well with my soul,” the author recognizes that, despite the tragic reality of this human existence, it truly can be well with my soul because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

Pipe dreams, you think?

Horatio Spafford, as he wrote that song, had just crossed the place on the Atlantic Ocean where his wife and daughters had been shipwrecked just a few weeks prior and only his wife survived. He knew the heartache that is a natural part of this life and is the byproduct of this sin-cursed world.

Yet, those words… “Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!” How he rejoiced to consider it! That thought, “my sin, not in part, but the whole is NAILED TO THE CROSS AND I BEAR IT NO MORE,” stirs the greatest recognition in my soul of a reality so far beyond the confines of this world.

My sin.

My sin is the reason life is hard. And my sin – the whole lot of it – has been nailed to the cross with Jesus and I no longer bear it.

I look around and see the heartaches around me…and I am conscious of my sin…but then, when I look for it, I always go back to Jesus.

He nailed it. All of it. Every last hideous drop. He nailed it to the cross and I bear it no more.

And, indeed, because of this truth, despite the chaos that seems it would swallow me up sometimes…it is well.

My Cross to Bear

Looking at the Scriptures in the accounts of Jesus’ journey to Skull Hill can be an uncomfortable thing. I suppose that is as it should be. But I also know that sometimes I can be de-sensitized to the cruelty that Jesus endured.

In the 19th chapter of John, I read that, after the awful scourging, Jesus was made to pick up his own cross and carry or drag it toward his destination.

But, as I read the words, I cannot help but recall Jesus’ call to follow him and how he said that I must take up my cross and follow. He was the one bearing the weight of that cross directly on the open wounds of his back and shoulders.

And then it dawns on me. Continue reading My Cross to Bear