“Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate,” wrote author, pastor, theologian, and modern-day martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And he continued, they liberate us to contemplate “the ultimate meaning of life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.”
I am quite sure that when Bonhoeffer spoke of the Cross and the Resurrection as “freeing” us, he did so on purpose. If I’m not mistaken, Bonhoeffer’s words above were written while he was imprisoned by the Nazis. In prison, he alludes to the freedom we can find anywhere as we choose to center on Christ’s sacrifice and power rather than focusing always on “our own fate” and thus living fear-molded lives, enslaved even if we seem to be free.
Sometimes I find myself taken by surprise by a stark contrast as I’m listening to a speech or reading an article or a book, and it occurs to me, “There’s depth and wisdom here. This person has a center, a foundation, a universe that’s larger than self. This person is grounded in truth, and I need to listen.”
And the contrast? It’s unmistakable! It’s between what is genuine and deep, and what is a thin veneer or convenient mask. With regard to faith, it’s faith that genuinely seeks God’s truth and thus enlivens the whole heart, mind, and soul. It’s “sold out” to God and not just seeking favor from a sect or a pet set of superficial and divisive traditions. With regard to public discourse, the contrast is between wise words coming from a grounded truth-seeking soul and poison words “offered” by the type of soul-shriveled politician whose main focus and heart’s desire is to divide us, stoke enmity, and by manipulating us, grasp power.
Through the long centuries, this has always been true.
I was reminded on this Palm Sunday (upon which I am now writing) that it was right after Jesus’ raising of his friend Lazarus that the religious leaders of his day began to firmly plot Christ’s death. Why? Because, they reasoned, if they let Christ continue, “pretty soon everyone will be believing in him and the Romans will come and remove what little power and privilege we still have” (John 11:48, The Message).
That is as modern as tomorrow. Any group with great earthly power can quickly find itself controlled by the deep fear that it’s power might quickly be lost. Frightened people—in their sect or office, family or party, city or state or nation, easily become dangerous people.
What happens when such a person comes into contact with a fellow human who is not frightened? Perhaps the latter is a Christian who actually chooses to live his life in the light of the Cross and the Resurrection and thus is truly free to think more about what life really means and what makes it worth living. Perhaps the latter has a security that is soul-deep and not circumstance-shallow. Perhaps the latter’s life is deeper than whether or not her new car is the latest model or his new house is a good deal larger than his last one.
Is it possible to seriously ponder the truth of the Cross and the Resurrection and still live a largely superficial life?
Bonhoeffer was right. Perhaps it won’t take an actual prison to separate us long enough from our toys and trivial “busy-ness” that we ponder what’s truly important. Good Friday and Easter are particularly suited for that. A well-spent Holy Week just might remind us of how holy are all weeks devoted to following the Lord who willingly lay down his rights, chose mercy over hatred, won by being willing to lose, and, giving up life in death, became the Author of life eternal for all who would believe.
Do we want to learn about the “ultimate meaning of life, suffering, and events”? Good Friday and Easter can free us to do that very thing. We don’t have to drown in superficiality. We can find a weight of truth and substance that can keep us from being blown around by the latest opinion polls or ever-present windbags who are always willing to sell truth for a dime’s worth of power.
We don’t have to fixate on what is terminally shallow.
To truly ponder Good Friday and Easter and give ourselves over to both that sacrifice and that joy is indeed to “lay hold of a great hope.”
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent