By Stuart Powell
Is there anything more difficult than hearing someone you love say goodbye? We typically react with sadness. That feeling is amplified when the goodbye comes at the threshold of death. Jesus’ disciples experienced that situation on the night of his betrayal. Jesus warned his disciples what was about to happen:
I tell you the solemn truth, you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into joy. When a woman gives birth, she has distress because her time has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you (John 16:20-22, New English Translation).
Jesus’ presence changed how his disciples thought and lived. That final trip to Jerusalem began with discussions of how close each would be to their rabbi in his kingdom (see Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45). Such conversations missed the point. Jesus’ warning dislodged their earthly hopes of power and control. They needed their faith in Jesus to be reshaped by his sacrifice.
After the goodbye came Jesus’ arrest, conviction, and execution. It ended their hope of ruling in the broken realm of sin. God changed the perspective of the first disciples by giving them front-row seats of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This new perspective helped reveal God’s plan to redeem all of humanity . . . not just them.
As we gather at the table, we must look through the joy of the resurrection and wrestle with the sadness of Jesus’ betrayal. We must linger at the cross where he died. Before we take in the joy of the empty grave, we must embrace the awful sacrifice of Good Friday. Until we anchor our faith on the truth of those painful events, we miss out on the joy and hope of his resurrection.
Let’s follow the path of every believer who came before us back to the elements. Jesus’ body was crucified for our restoration before it was resurrected. Jesus’ blood was poured out in atonement before it was applied to our souls. Let your faith in Christ draw you to the sorrow before it leads you to God’s eternal joy.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.