Last Sunday in Egypt Christians gathered in worship, as we did, to celebrate Christ’s humble, triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As they prayed together, bombs were detonated, and at least 45 worshipers of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings were killed. Our hearts break. Evil seems to be doing awfully well in this world. What does our faith get us?
Somebody should do something. Heartbreak and rage are first cousins. We grieve, and we grit our teeth and clinch our fists. We can do some bombing, too, you know. Perhaps the answer is some righteous violence of our own.
It all gets very complicated very fast. Absolutely we should defend the innocent, and that requires the sword, but there is a thin line between defending and avenging. When all is said and done and blood upon blood is shed, a cosmic dimension remains, and the virus of unceasing vengeance keeps spreading. In short, if we think we will overcome violence with violence, we are wrong.
Look to the cross, that “emblem of suffering and shame.” On the cross is the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us—in the midst of all of life’s realities.
On the cross is the only person who loved fully and truly walked in obedience and grace. As a sign of our great gratitude for his kindness and mercy, we crucified him. And then he had the audacity to forgive even the ones who drove the spikes through his hands.
Look at the cross. It is pain. It is guilt. It is the insanity of endless violence played out. It is death, and it is the wrong person dying.
Look at the cross. It is the power of God. “I will take it,” Christ says in the cross, “and I will not pay it back.” The one who lived with peace and forgiveness died the same way. He laid his life down rather than strike back at his attackers. It seems as insane as our cycles of violence, doesn’t it? What does it get us, his way of peace and mercy?
It gets us Easter. The cross is the breaking point. It is a REAL MOMENT in time, and it is a COSMIC DIVISION in time. There is a shift in possibility. Death and violence no longer have the last word … for the simple reason that God says so. A new creation emerges and invites. Violence is futile. The gracious way of the one who died wins.
We cannot know the power of Easter without spending some time at the cross. Without Good Friday, Easter is just a pretty day, a little respite of singing and fellowship before we return to the real world. WITH Good Friday, Easter is real victory, a way into a new way of living in the real world, a way into Christ’s way.
Tonight, we will gather and tell the ugly story that is the greatest hope for our ugly world. Come to the cross. The one who died there embraces our Egyptian brothers and sisters. He is with them in their suffering, and they are with him in his Resurrection. Violence and hatred don’t get the last word.