I’ve mourned it in the past, stood at the foot of the cross and ached for Jesus’ suffering, agonized over my sin that crushed him.
I thought that the more deeply I loved Him, the more unbearable it would be to see Him suffer.
But this year I can’t mourn, because He’s not mourning now. And, holding His hand, looking into His laughing face, how can I mourn? He knows – and He’s teaching me – what lies beyond the cross. And you’ll never find Him wondering whether all the pain was worth it.
I still look long and hard at the cross and the beloved figure on it. But all I see there now is love, and how does one mourn the greatest love in the universe?
The strong shadow of the cross stands behind what seem to me the most beautiful words in the Bible, calling me to speak them as my own: “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Songs 7:10) Jesus went to the cross as Saviour, as obedient Son of his Father. He also went as Lover. Groom. Soon-to-be husband.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. . . and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27)
In this week between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, Jesus seems to have had a wedding on his mind. The two parables He told about the kingdom of heaven being like a wedding were both told in this week leading up to the cross. (Matt 22:1-14; 25:1-13)
Even the Sadducees frame their trick question concerning the resurrection in light of marriage. Jesus replies, “Don’t you get it, guys? After the resurrection, people don’t marry each other.” One wonders if he isn’t thinking, “. . . because you get to marry me,” when he follows their conversation with the declaration that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30)
I’ve not eaten a meal with friends knowing it was my last before leaving the world. But even final meals before moving across the world are, for me, difficult affairs. Full of aching and sadness. Certainly not something I “eagerly desire.” I think Jesus could only say “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” because He was looking past the cross to the consummation. “For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)
The last conversation Jesus had with his friends was framed by His desire for union. It started with words straight from the Jewish betrothal ceremony:
“. . . I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
It finished with a prayed expression of this same deep longing,
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am. . .” (John 17:24)
This year, I can’t mourn the cross because this is where Jesus proves his (un)dying love, His eternal commitment.
This is where he makes us His forever, strikes from our wedding vows “‘til death do us part.”
Here he removes our rags and clothes us in the fine white dress of his own making – of his own being – preparing us to be His bride.
We are so close, here, to his heart. So near to the wedding banquet and the intimacy that follows. Here at the cross, he does it all, cries out “It is finished.” Here he offers himself to us in that most vulnerable of conditions, utterly exposed, stripped not only of clothes but of all that we would consider beauty or basic human dignity. Stripped so that the naked glory of His blinding, sight-giving love could be visible. And he waits, the waiting itself the most vulnerable of postures. Waiting for our choice. Our love.
This, then, is what I mourn. The murderer who mocks. The soldier who shoves and strikes and throws dice for the dying man’s simple clothes. The person passing by on the road, going about his every day business, turning her head away so she doesn’t have to look. I mourn each man and woman who fails to see through the bleeding body to the heart of God which aches to be one with them.
Won’t you look with me once more? Look, and love every word, every action, every minute of his surrender to suffering for love of you. Love every detail about him that declares it done, you made perfect. Made His.
The long-spoken words echo through his silent surrender to the flogging: “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride.” Beneath his cry, “It is finished,” I hear his now true declaration, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” With the tearing of the curtain, the final destruction of all that divides, He cries for our response, “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my flawless one. . . Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” (Song of Songs 4:9, 7; 5:2; 2:10)