(Written for Good Friday)
Why would one person give their life up for another? I suppose there could be many answers to that question, but think of a parent giving up his or her life for their child. The parent must love the child so much that he or she wants their child to live more than they want him or herself to live.
When Jesus willingly gives up his life for us, he is saying, “I want you to live. Your lives, all of your lives, are more important than my one life.”
Since he died that we might live, it’s part of our responsibility to make sure we live as fully as possible. But really it’s more than a responsibility; it’s a privilege; it’s the desire of my heart. I want to live because God wants me to live.
So doesn’t it make sense for us to figure out the ways that we are contributing to our own death and stop doing them? Good Friday is the perfect night to let stuff go. Pastor memories of pain and suffering. Old grievances or people you haven’t forgiven. Whatever is holding you back, weighing you down, killing you off in body or spirit. Tonight is the perfect night to let it go.
The paths we walk to death can be obvious or subtle, quick or slow. One of the greatest problems for disciples walking the spiritual walk is that we often don’t realize the ways that we are hurting ourselves, killing ourselves. And not only ourselves but others as well. Jesus died for us all so anything that I do that destroys myself or someone else is contradictory to his sacrifice.
Ask yourself, look deep inside yourself one more time, what things are you thinking, doing and saying that are killing yourself and others?
Some ways that lead to death are obvious- jumping in front of a moving vehicle, getting shot in the head, being hung on a cross.
Many paths to death were not so obvious at one point but now, because of all the talk about them, are becoming more obvious – smoking cigarettes for many years, enduring long periods of stress and fatigue, eating large quantities of trans fats. When it comes to things like this, how much is too much? I don’t know. You have to ask yourself and be honest with yourself because your body is speaking to you.
Even less obvious are attitudes, thought patterns, ways of being that kill us. Resentment. Jealousy. Worry. Doubt. Fear. Too much pressure. Too much control. Too much analyzing. Not enough laughter. Not enough love. Not enough carefree living.
Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus prayed to God that he wouldn’t have to die. The traditional record of Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Mt 26: 39). The modernized Message translation says, Jesus “fell on his face, praying, ‘My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?’”
But he went through with it, he died so that we might live. Out of respect, in gratitude, let’s symbolically give Jesus all the things that we’re doing that are diminishing his sacrifice. Take a black stone or several stones, and pray into them everything you want to let go of, release, move past. Then, place them at the foot of the cross (or somewhere else that is meaningful to you).
I’m not suggesting this so you will feel guilty; I’m suggesting this so that you will be free to live. In hope, perhaps this symbolic gesture will translate into these things really leaving our lives.
Scripture says that Jesus dies for our sins, that he takes our sins and the sins of the whole world upon himself. And the way I understand it is that when he dies, our sins die with him. So at the appointed time, bring your sins, your death seeking behaviors, your life-taking attitudes to the cross.
Let them go to the grave with Jesus so that on Easter morning, the morning of new life, none of that stuff will be a part of you anymore. Death will no longer be a part of you.