There are two specific days enshrouding the crucifixion of Christ – Good Friday, the day He hung, died, and was buried, and Easter Sunday, the day He rose. One is indisputable, even by the most secular of history books, the other indispensible.
I’ve spent many Easters reflecting on both days, more often than not caught unawares on the season’s threshold, trying to juggle the biblical events, theological significance, and spiritual relevance, attempting to express something pivotal in an eloquent and passionate way, pretending I’m summing up a lifestyle of unparalleled devotion to a God who knows better, when really I’ve wasted the last 364 days since the last Easter when the weight of the weekend seized my mind and soul catapulted me into reverence…
It’s a ridiculous roller coaster, and thank God my salvation is not dependent on the inadequacies of man, but on the consistency of God.
I’ve questioned once or twice, usually in passing, the significance of the days between death and resurrection, aside from the more obvious reason that, yes, He really was deader than a doornail. As a Christian, I have never believed that death = oblivion. So where was Jesus, what was He doing, and what does that mean?
Before Christ took His last breath, the weight and stench of human nature transferred to His glorious self, and God turned away. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Overwhelmed by the deepest, darkest separation He had experienced as a human, Christ was still, though barely, alive. Redeemable. Forgivable. Remorseful. But He did not apologize, He did not repent, He did not shake off the sin of the world like the dust from the road.
He had to die guilty in order to make the judgment satisfactory.
I don’t think there is any way I can put it that makes the reality of that something I can grasp and go with and rely on daily as enough. But maybe one day.
Christ died guilty of my sin. His judgment – no, punishment – was not the cross. His punishment was not His own Father forsaking Him after a lifetime of favor and glory. His punishment came after He died a guilty Man – guilty not of His own wrongdoing, but a world of it. His (my) punishment brought Him to the very gates of Hell, straight into the hands of the Tormentor, robed in the filthiest cloak stained by men’s denial. He belonged to the prince of the world now – His own glory sullied, up for the taking by Mediocre Me and Mine. Traded my dirty laundry for a Robe of Righteousness.
I don’t know, theologically, what may have happened down there, or the logistics of the negotiation, or how I suddenly became free despite the iron-clad shackles chaining me to my sinful nature that still, today, pulls toward that darkness. I only know that Christ had to go there in my place – Someone had to pay the price, and it’s just my luck that Someone happened to be blameless, completely worthy, larger than the punishment could hold.
I only know that in the very depths of His despair, pain, humiliation, angerfrustrationdarknessemptinessloneliness… He did not turn His back on me. He followed my inevitable path down to an inevitable place and handed over the key. “It’s My turn – see? The lies she tells, the hurt she inflicts, the things she covets, the vanity she wallows in, the passiveness she bathes in, the scum she gravitates to? They’re Mine now, strapped to the scars on My back. Let her go.”
His death, yes. His resurrection, absolutely.
But also His acceptance of that judgment, that punishment, that lonely black place, a place everyone should be frightened of, a place where even a glimpse would make us want to cling to our mothers’ skirts. His journey there, His willingness to go in my stead – the very pinnacle of Christ’s purpose: reconciliation.
Reconciliation to a God Who Wants. Because of a Son Who Dared.