I have spent many sleepless nights, whether it was due to crying triplets, or 24 hour relay races, or biopsy reports or stress-filled worries. Lack of sleep is brutal. It messes with your body, mind and spirit.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized this was an added agony Jesus experienced on Holy Week. The events that would unfold over the next 36 hours were relentless and exhausting, and Jesus did them without sleep.
He woke up this morning like a man…like any other man and by noon tomorrow, He died…like a man…any other man.
While many of us may hit up church for Palm Sunday and Easter Celebration, we move from singing “Hosanna” to “He is Risen” without walking through the valley of the shadow of death with Jesus. We fail to truly consider what Jesus actually did for us.
As I prepare for Easter, I am always struck by the difference in Raymond Brown’s two works: The Death of the Messiah and The Birth of the Messiah. He spent 1608 pages on Jesus’s death (not even his resurrection!) and 752 pages on his birth. In America, we have placed far more cultural emphasis upon the birth of Jesus by creating a tremendous secular holiday. However, Christmas did not even exist for the first few hundred years in the church. Instead, they put all of their focus on Easter.
Why? Because as Paul says simply: If Jesus did not die; if Jesus was not completely dead and then fully and bodily resurrected–then everything else we believe is foolish rubbish.
So in order to get to Easter, we must first pass through the valley of the shadow of death. We must realize the depth of the pain Jesus suffered. We must realize that as he sat at dinner with his friends, as he washed their feet, as he watched Judas go to betray him, heard Peter reject him, as he prayed for relief, as he was arrested and dragged before Herod, was interogated by Pilate, as he felt the sting of a whip, was spat upon, was stripped naked, and felt the abandonment of God…all of this occured without sleep. He also withstood that foggy, grumpy, bitter, frustrated pain we all feel during our sleeplessness.
Imagine, as you woke up this morning, you realized that over the next 36 hours your life would end. How would you spend your day? Jesus chose not to retreat into the shadows but to finish the mission.
He experienced the excruciating pain of death in every aspect of life.
- Physcially: He was beaten and murdered
- Emotionally: He was in anguish and agony
- Relationally: He was rejected by his friends
- Missionally: He failed to be the “Messiah”-King
- Spiritually: He was forsaken and abandoned by his father
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You see, at just the right time…today…while you are driving to school, going to work, playing on Spring Break, watching the Amazing Race, reading the Mueller report, fighting with your wife, yelling at your kids, embelishing the expense report, running at the Y, attending an AA meeting, surfing the internet, reading this blog, napping…Christ died for you. Christ spent today in agony for you.
While you were too busy to care; too busy to stop and notice; too busy to pray or say thank you, Christ carried the cross for you.