There must have been something powerfully persuasive in the way that man died before his eyes: so slow and excruciating a death yet with such unswerving confidence of identity, purpose and integrity. There must have been something in that man that exuded Truth. Most of what he knew of that man he had gleaned by watching him during these final agonizing hours. Yet that was enough… enough to foster complete trust in that man. He did not have long to live himself… at least, not in this world. He turned his head to the man and gasped, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).
My gut is doing Chewbacca impersonations… it explodes, swells, and stabs me from within. I am a fool! I think I am suffering! But I have not even cracked open the door to suffering… it is barely ajar. Yet already my graces are slipping. My sentences have shortened to brief verbal explosions.. I sound demanding… impatient. I want to exercise compassion, to minister Christ to others in suffering. But my own pain leaps upon me, knocking me down again. What a weak, Weak, WEAK creature I truly am!
But this is the gift of Easter – that He, that man, who suffered so gloriously, has imputed to us who trust that same spirit and Spirit. He is being formed in each of us, having taken upon Himself that full room of suffering. He grasped the knob, flung it full open, and marched full into it. The agony was unimaginable! It demanded its own special word, “excruciating!” [Latin: ex + cruciāre “out of” + “the cross”]
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:39-46)
Oh God, I cannot rise to meet you in that same level of suffering! I can only … only accept that gracious gift from Your scarred and bloodied hand. To refuse it would be only further insult, cause You further pain. But what can I surrender to You in praise?
Why… all I have is never enough. But what I have I give without loss.
I give you my life.
This Easter… Let God do His full transformative work in you, open wide your heart to His Spirit, abide deeply in Him allowing the fruit of the Holy Spirit to form from you, making you all that He suffered, died, and rose to make you to become.