Bishop’s Easter Message
IMAGINE how disappointed Jesus must have been when He died. His own inner circle of friends had abandoned Him. One of His disciples, in cold calculated fashion, betrayed Him to His enemies who were delighted at the opportunity that knocked at their doors. Another, a leading member of the small group of disciples He had gathered, disowned Him three times when challenged. And when Jesus was arrested, all His disciples fled to save their own skin (Mt. 26:56). Not a single one remained with Him to go through the trial he went through. How disappointing this must have been to Jesus who spent more than three years pouring His life into these men.
The Saviour of the world must have had His fair share of lonely and disappointing moments. He came as the Messiah to God’s chosen nation, carefully nurtured over the centuries in spite of their regular habits of disobedience and apostasy. But they did not recognise Him. God had given them all they needed to recognise Him when He visited them – they had the Law that reflected the character and ways of God, their temple with its spiritually rich patterns of worship, the Scriptures that brought God’s voice from heaven into their midst. Yet they failed to recognise Jesus. How disappointing!
Again and again, Jesus tried to show who He really was to those around Him. Few really understood and believed.
The majority were looking for some entertainment in their dull and dreary lives, and were out to see if Jesus would perform more spectacular miracles. The religious leaders, who of all people, had the training and equipment to recognise God’s presence, not only failed miserably to do so, but also deliberately rejected Jesus and plotted to dispose of Him. Even in His own hometown and in His own family Jesus met scepticism and ridicule. His own family members believed that he was mad and questioned what they thought were His strange ways (Mk. 3:21).
Everywhere Jesus went He saw mainly unbelief and superficiality, spiritual blindness and foolishness. Even His close friends were disappointing at times. Remember His visit to Bethany in search of the warm comfort of spiritual friendship as He prepared Himself for the violent climax of His life on earth – and what did He get? Martha was too busy trying to bring up an impressive banquet for Jesus, not realising that what Jesus needed was not gourmet food but the listening ears of loving friends.
At the Last Supper, when Jesus revealed with the pain of betrayed friendship that one of His close disciples would sell Him to His enemies, the disciples “began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this” (Lk. 22:23). But how quickly their discussion degenerated into an argument about who among them was the greatest! Jesus must have looked at them with great sadness, deeply disappointed with their worldliness and lack of understanding and depth.
When Jesus wrestled in agony in anticipation of the impending crucifixion and what it meant for Him and His eternal relationship with His Father, His three closest disciples slept in total disregard of what He was going through (Mt. 26:36-46). It was one of the loneliest moments in the life of Jesus. And one of the most disappointing.
When Jesus carried his cross to Calvary, it must have been with a heavy heart. What was difficult to carry was the disappointment He felt – disappointment with His own family, His close friends, the holy city of Jerusalem which had rejected Him, with the religious leaders who had engineered His execution, with a world that was blind to its Saviour.
It was an old disappointment – the disappointment of Creator God who saw the wickedness of the creatures He had created. God saw “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was fi lled with pain.” (Gen. 6:5-6). God’s heart was broken with great disappointment at the unfaithful response of His creatures.
On the road to the cross, that same disappointment filled God’s heart – that same grief and pain. This time, God did something amazing; He died for His ungrateful and unfaithfully wicked creatures. Jesus may have died of a broken heart, carrying the sins of the whole world and all its disappointments, but the disappointments did not change His love for His creation. Even at the cross, in lonely disappointment, He prayed for the forgiveness of those who had deeply disappointed Him and pierced His heart. He died for those who disappointed Him and failed Him. He died for foe and friend alike.
Perhaps some of you reading this may be in the grip of some disappointment. Who among us is really free from disappointment, for life throws many disappointments at us – disappointments in the family, at work, with friends, with ourselves, in church, with life … If you think you are alone in this, perish the thought. Above all, know that in Jesus you have the Saviour who knows all about your disappointments, for He carried a much heavier burden than yours.
While the unbelieving world and the wicked devil threw a huge pile of disappointments on Jesus, He refused to allow them to displace His central concern – which was to obey His Father. He who prayed, “not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42), was very focused on one thing – to obey His Father’s will and to finish His work. Beaten and bleeding, dying and gasping, His heart sought to please the Father, disappointments or not.
If your life is filled with disappointments, you can do two things. First, turn to Jesus who faced the hell of disappointments in a way none of us has ever faced. Second, like Him, even in the depth of disappointments, never lose your passion to do God’s will and to please Him. Our disappointments help to point to Jesus. In our disappointments we find a new appointment with God – at the cross. We will discover that Jesus brings hope in the worst situations – how far worse can it be than a lonely humiliating death on a Roman cross?
In remaining faithful to His Father, Jesus accomplished what no one could. He paid the penalty for our sins and changed the course of human history. He made it possible for one of His disciples who saw Him die on the cross to later write: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4) when seeing far into the future. Jesus opened a new door to a new future. The empty tomb of Jesus was evidence of its reality.
The two disciples who walked to Emmaus on that Easter day, walked with the heaviness of great disappointment. They had seen the worst – their hopes violently and cruelly dashed on the cross. They talked about Jesus in the past tense: “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk. 24:21). The show was over (so it seemed) and their dreams broken by the cruel realities of a terminally sick society. But Jesus, the One who carried all our disappointments on the cross, joined them on their journey and brought them new hope, a hope that was like a new flame that rose among the ashes of human failure and disappointment. In their disappointment they had an appointment with the Risen Christ and their lives were changed forever.
This Easter hope that walks through the pain and disappointment of the cross, that arises from the shed blood of Jesus that brings us salvation and eternal life, is what gripped the early Christians, including Paul. Amid the pain and suffering of human life and Christian ministry, and living through many disappointments, Paul could see the grace of God and the eternal purposes of God. As one saved by the living Christ, Paul could testify:
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Because of Jesus our Saviour, we need not lose heart for “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17) as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Easter always follows Good Friday. God has the last word, the final say in our lives and in our stories. Disappointments or not, Jesus is our Saviour and Lord. Disappointed or not, our only hope is in Him, for He died for us, and rose victoriously from death, promising to one day put an end to all the disappointments we find along the way.