Good Friday: Nothing and Everything

Nothing and Everything

John 19:17-42

The soldiers at the scene of the cross were dividing up the spoils, as was their way. But this time, the pickings were slim. Some small wrappings. A pretty good seamless robe. No money.

Jesus had lost even the clothes on His back, exchanging them for some wood and some nails. He had no home of His own. His only visible means of support had been His network of friends – but now they were mostly scattered or hid. Alone. No power. No last will, nothing to probate. His short burst of fame had now run out. He’d given over the care of His mother to someone else. He had no children — no legacy, as this culture saw it. And now, He was being stripped even of life itself.

Nothing left but a corpse,

in a grave,

the stony end.

Nothing. The perfect place to start for someone whose task it is to renew everything. The end. Of the beginning.

And what of us, who live our lives in a world stuffed with stuff, putting our treasures in the retirement account of earthly life, some of us with families, some with friends, some with at least 15 minutes of fame? What of our life of blessings and curses, and dreams fulfilled and broken? Why would we want a new beginning?

Because as it stood, it all came to the same stony end. And all that’s left then is what had been there all along, hidden beneath all the stuff of life. A loving God who is with us and for us. A God who was left with nothing, who went into the tomb, but didn’t stay there. Nothing became everything. And we can share in that everything now, while we still live, whatever we might have.

Lord, You are at the end of everything. You are at each new beginning. You are in between, where we are now. You make something worthwhile out of nothing. Help us be part of the Kingdom for which You have set us apart. Amen.

Bob Longman

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Ezekiel 37:1-14;
Romans 8:6-11;
John 11:1-46

“This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been here!”

Martha said it. Mary said it. Some of the mourners were likely to have said it. Lazarus had taken ill. Surely if Jesus were there, He would have healed him. After all, He had healed all sorts of strangers — many of them were the strangest of strangers. Now, the brother of two of his most devoted followers gets deathly ill, and what does Jesus do?

He waits.

And waits..

And waits

… until Lazarus dies. Jesus lets him die!

It would seem unseemly to talk about a purpose behind the act of not acting to heal Lazarus. But Jesus Himself raises the issue. He says, “It’s good that I wasn’t there.” Huh?? How could that be?? Jesus had something bigger in mind than just another run-of-the-mill, everyday, amazing sensational miracle healing. It was time to show that His power extended beyond the grave.

But even knowing that, even with so strong a purpose behind it, it still was not a matter of Jesus’ just going there and popping Lazarus out of a tomb. He still had to face a large number of mourners. Lazarus was far from being a loner. His death brought much grief to many, and especially to two of Jesus’ closest followers, Martha and Mary. Jesus had to come face-to-face with their anguish and their blame, one-on-one. And they were right — it was anguish which wouldn’t have happened if He came when He was told about the illness. Jesus could’ve healed Lazarus. There was no arguing about that stone cold fact. The delay had such a mighty price in sorrow that He was moved and troubled, so much that He wept, even though He already knew what He was about to do. There was only one act even He could do to make it worth that price. He had to call Lazarus out of the tomb.

Death is no small thing, even to Jesus. (Think of Him at Gethsemane.) But that just makes victory over death even more essential. Jesus’ victory over Lazarus’ death. Jesus’ victory over His own death. Jesus’ victory over your death.

Lord, I do fear death. I will fear death. Help me to trust you through the fear, so that I might confidently live according to Your will. Amen.

Bob Longman

Hear the above, as an mp3.