I was taking my kids to the doctor’s office this morning when I saw him. His beard was pure white, his back bowed like a tree beneath heavy winds, his cane shaking violently with each tiny step towards the road. He stopped short and looked down at his daily paper, deposited at the foot of his driveway, just inches from the busy traffic of Highway 20 headed towards Lawrenceville.
He looked at the coming traffic. He looked at the paper. He poked at the plastic wrapped news with his cane once, twice, three times. He again looked at the traffic, and the worry was clearly etched into his face: if I bend down to pick this paper up, I might fall forward into traffic.
By this time I was past him, straining to see his decision in my rearview mirror. He was bending down the last I saw him.
We’re sitting in the doctor’s office and my daughter is coughing her head off. She’s been on six different medications to try and help her get the cough under control and let her breathe regularly. Most of the time, the meds seem to be working. At this particular moment, not so much. But she is smiling because some Alvin and the Chipmunks movie is on the TV. My son play obliviously with three tiny metal cars he brought with him.
Across the waiting room is another parent, a mom, holding her infant daughter who is dressed in all kinds of pink and is tiny and quite lethargic. The mother is rocking the child gently in her arms, not so much to soothe the child as to allow the mother to get her nervous energy out. I can’t say for sure, but they have the appearance of first-timers. The mother keeps looking at her baby, then at the nurse’s station, then at her baby, then at the door. She is worried.
My kids and I get called back before she does, and as we rise, she looks at me with a tension-filled face. It should be her turn, but it’s not. I disappear through the door and never see her or her child again.
We’re now killing time in Target while my wife finishes working out. My kids want to see the toys and naturally they each want to roam aisles that are miles apart – Ella in the girls toys, Jon in the boys. I can’t figure out a way to let each explore where they want without one of them being out of my sight, and I’m just not willing to let that happen.
But suddenly it has happened. Ella is gone, and I can’t see her. I call out for her but she doesn’t respond. Without thinking, I run over two aisles and find her, playing blissfully with some Barbie dolls and talking to the characters in her fertile imagination.
Then I realize that I didn’t bring Jon with me. So I tear off back to where I last saw him. There he stands, still playing with Thomas the Tank Engine and Percy. He is smiling. He too is talking to the characters in his head.
I grab Jon and run back to Ella. I grab her by the arm and pull her up to my side. Both kids look at me in confusion, and Ella, seeing the look on my face, asks: “What’s wrong with you, daddy? Why do you look so weird?”
I just pull them in closer and hug them.
These are all small moments from my day so far, but they have stuck with me all morning because today is Good Friday. Today is the day that I, and my fellow Christians, recognize as the day that Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to his cross some 2,000 years ago and died for the sins of humanity. Others see it as just a Friday. Either perspective is acceptable.
But for me, the day is the ultimate testimony that we live in a world so broken that only brokenness can fix it. That our universe is so full of heartaches that are both large and intimate, easily healed or permanently damaging, and no amount of anything we can do will ever fix it. We could all give every last dollar we have or will ever earn to the most noble charitable causes tomorrow, and it still wouldn’t keep pace with the pain and suffering in this world. We could become the most altruistic beings on the planet, and it still wouldn’t be enough to cover every old man needing help to pick up a paper, soothe every anxious first-time mother, or calm the fears of every caring parent.
There are plenty of people who will point to this staggering amount of brokenness, this unyielding assault of evil, and say that it is evidence that no God exists. Evidence that the death we Christians celebrate is just a very public, though very noble, failure.
And some days, I am inclined to agree.
But not today.
Today, I see that the answer for evil isn’t just a cosmic house cleaning; it’s not simply a theological atomic bomb drop; it’s not merely a divine sweeping away of the chaff and debris of broken human life. That is part of the answer, not the whole.
No, the whole is that before there could be restoration, before there could be justice and cleansing and healing and perfection, there had to be a time when the God who judges became the God who was judged. The Divine Being who put the universe into motion entered into his own creation and became a man. God became, as John put it, something that we could see with our eyes, touch with our hands, hear with our ears and follow with our feet. The perfect became imperfect and tried to show us his love.
And we, humanity, put him on trial and found him guilty and crucified him.
We, humanity, judged God guilty of being perfect, of showing us our imperfection, of loving us enough to not let us continue blindly disregarding him in his glory. We, humanity, drove nails into his hands, and a crown of thorns into his head, and a spear into his side in an effort to shut up the God who made us.
And when we, humanity, had bled him, and beaten him, and humiliated him as much as any man could be bled and beaten and humiliated, we raised him above us and told him to save himself and us.
Which he did. By dying.
The world groaned at his death. The universe shook. The sky ruptured. We noticed, but we didn’t care. We had judged God. And he was dead.
And if you don’t believe in the resurrection, if you don’t celebrate Easter Sunday, then the story ends there and the evil and pain and horrors that surround us shouldn’t surprise you. Nor should it dismay you. The world is broken. The world is evil. If there is no God, there is no one to blame.
And we killed the one who claimed to be God.
But for those of us who believe in the resurrection, those of us who believe that the God who died is alive and well and out of that ancient middle eastern tomb, then the evil in this world serves only to remind us that darkness is fleeting. Old backs won’t be old forever. Anxious mothers with sick children will one day see all things healed. And a worried father will one day be free from all his worrying.
Because the God we judged took that judgment, bore it on his back and in his hands and in his wounds, and made the words of the ancient prophet become Truth that set us free:
“By His stripes we are healed.”