Sunday, 31 March 2013

Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
And so Jesus, despising the shame of it all, gave himself up to death, trusting the God who forsook him in his greatest, darkest hour. He gave himself up to death; to be laid in a cold, dark tomb, as far from Love as a human can get...broke himself open like a grain of wheat under the millstone. He trusted himself to him who judges justly. He walked straight into the dark. Then God, who judges justly, waited. Waited while the followers of Jesus, the helpers and the hope-ers, slowly gave up.

It is never easy to take what is precious and lay it down in the dead dark.

Yet hasn't our own Father taught us over and over again, that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, there can be no fruit?
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
This is no pretty metaphor. Death, no matter what is on the other side, hurts. And fear of death tracks us all. It will not be quelled by unique perspectives or heartwarming stories.

Beth Moore tells about doing relief work in Angola, and learning about people who received seed for planting. Instead of planting it, they ate it. They couldn't trust such a precious thing to the ground, buried out of sight and out of control. I am just like those people. I am hungry now. I want to eat the seed. I don't want to give up control, cover it with mud and hope against hope that someday, something equally as precious comes pushing back up through the black dirt.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Yet Jesus, the Jesus who died and was buried in that cold, dim tomb, calls me over the rush of my fear and the howl of my hurt. He bids me give up myself in the dark, bury my self-hope like a seed in the earth, and trust all to that One who judges justly.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. (James 5:7)
Seed doesn't grow overnight. It's a long time after planting that you can be sure you've deposited seeds and not stones, and even then, the weak little sprouts that show themselves are a far cry from fruit. It's enough to make an inexperienced planter more than a little frustrated with waiting. Only the farmer, who has had his experiences with this planting, dying, rising, and finally, harvest - has patience to wait.
...knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope... (Romans 5:3-4)
And so, when hope in their hero was gone for all lovers of Jesus, and all that remained was a memory to be honoured, the third day came. There in the darkness, death died - got swallowed up in the victory of new life. Jesus the Christ was raised from out of death by a God who is faithful, and all who were condemned to die went free.

And all who are condemned to die go free.

The seed was transformed, released to its full purpose. The One who emerged from the tomb was far more than the One who entered it. He brought out more than he took in.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces... (Isaiah 25:8)
Father, give me the grace to walk straight into the dark, laying down in the furrows all my precious seed...not because it isn't mine, but because I entrust it to You...You who judge justly. Let me not be driven by fear, but led by Your Spirit through the darkness to light.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:6)

No comments: