Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

March 26, 2005

Did not our hearts burn within us!

Mostly I don't yearn for you, God. Mostly, I yearn for a thousand things first, before I ever yearn for you. Let there be no pretending now. Although I can truthfully say, "I was lost, but now I'm found," the reality is that very often I still feel lost. Very often, I still let go of your hand and chase after deceitful things. Illusions. Beguiling lies.

But now it is the day they call Holy Saturday, the day after the cross, the day before the empty tomb. Yesterday, after having pronounced your benediction on the very men who were murdering you, you cried out in a final spasm of pain and "gave up your spirit." At that moment the very universe seemed to go black. The earth shook. Ancient graves were thrown open and the dead walked abroad. Witnessing all this, hearing the words you spoke, seeing how you died, one of your murderers, a grizzled centurion, veteran of many wars and participant in many official executions, cried in wonder, "Truly this was the son of God!"

What can it mean to have killed the son of God? What did it feel like to watch him die? How can good come of this, we wonder. How can the Father redeem such evil, turning humiliating defeat into glorious victory. No, it is inconceivable.

And yet, truly this was the son of God. Loved of the father before all time, the spotless lamb, infinitely worthy, staked to a tree and left to die before a crowd of mockers. What can it mean? Who can fathom it? Who can say with the centurion that this nightmare is in fact a revelation of the goodness of God? Who would be so foolish?

The next day, among the crowds streaming from Jerusalem (the Passover now completed), will be two men who knew you, Jesus, and called themselves your disciples. Men who had seen, that very morning, the tomb where your corpse had been laid, its great stone rolled away, your winding sheet lying neatly on the slab. What could it have meant? What can anything, at this moment, mean? All now is fear and confusion. What to do? What to say? What to think?

So they're heading home, these two, full of uncertainty, trapped somewhere between despair and hope. And along the way they meet another traveler, a teacher. They tell him all about you, and what had happened on Friday, and also what had happened that morning, but they will never dare to call you son of God, like the centurion had. They will not go so far as that. For do they not recall the Scripture: "Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree." They will call you prophet, they will call you mighty in word and deed, but, no, not son of God.

The stranger tells them they are "slow of heart to believe." But who would not be so? Having witnessed the unspeakable brutality of Friday, they cannot yet credit the Sunday ray of hope. Yes, they are slow of heart. Slow to believe. Slow to take in, to receive, accept, and live the Kingdom of God. All of us, how slow we are to see the Lord's new thing, though it breaks forth before our eyes like the dawn!

So this stranger, this teacher, he unravels the Scriptures as he walks with them, tracing a golden thread of redemptive hope from Genesis to Malachi, and showing that all that had just happened was in fact necessary and right. At evening they stop for the night at a roadside inn, these three travelers, and there, like old friends, they break bread together. Solemnly the stranger blesses their communion, but when the two look up from their praying . . . he is gone.

And the world is new!


Anonymous Brian in Fresno said...

Thank you very much for this wonderful meditation.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Beautiful, Bob, beautiful. I'll be posting a link to this post on my blog tonight. Peace, brother.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Thanks for the boost, Milton. As usual, you are a great encourager.

8:37 AM  

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