Suggested Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him—Romans 8:17
My husband and I had started watching a series on HULU. We had seen some pretty good, ones but his one didn’t start off very strong, in fact didn’t seem worth the investment of time. Although I would sit down to watch it I would have my tablet to get some work done at the same time. The more episodes we watched, the more it felt like the plot of a movie we had seen decades before. Then, out of the blue, during one episode, everything took a different turn, it went from common, familiar, blah, blah, blah, to intriguing, to we could hardly wait for the next episode and what would happen. When the series ended, we were genuinely shocked at the outcome. As a writer I was thinking about the kind of brilliance, the degree of skill it took to pull something like that, off.
If you have heard a lot of Easter sermons and messages you probably think you could finish one by yourself. The preacher might start off with a text that is pretty familiar to you—such as the one taken from the Gospel of Matthew, where Matthew writes how the two Mary’s went to the tomb and were greeted by the angel who told them not to be afraid, though they were seeking Jesus, “He is not here, for he has risen”—focus on some of the characters and events you have read dozens, possibly hundreds of time, take a leg of the story that you have heard or read countless times. You might follow along, but underneath there is a degree of disinterest. The element of surprise is gone. Somewhere between “Christ has risen, he is risen indeed” and “Amen”, they lost you. I will tell you by experience from being married to a preacher we should never tune out during a sermon or think we know exactly where its going, but stay connected, listen, and follow along, because somewhere in there between the beginning and end is not only the element of surprise, but the key to our living out a surprise ending for an unbelieving, doubtful, skeptical world to take note.
If Jesus’ followers had paid close attention to his words, really paid attention to his sermons, teachings, conversations during what turned out to be the final months, weeks, and days of his life, had not gotten lost or thinking about the next village they would travel to, the next miracle they would see him perform, they might have been more prepared for the brilliant, surprise ending God pulled off.
Our life stories have potential to have that same element of surprise for an unbelieving world. It may appear to be the normal story with the normal and expected outcome; reads like something they have read or seen before: abuse, loss, betrayal, disappointment, followed by self-destruction, life-long grief, anger, bitterness, struggle… But suddenly instead of going the way they expect, it takes a different turn, something totally unexpected, unforeseen happens.
Jesus said, if you share in my sufferings you will share in my glory; share in the outcome of my story. What was his story: suffering and death but with an unexpected twist and surprise ending? What is our story: suffering and death, with potential to have that surprise ending also? What is the outcome and ending the world writes us off for, following suffering, defeat, disappointment, loss, abuse: despair, giving up, loss of motivation, loss of identity, detachment from worth, bitterness, anger, self-destruction, hopelessness?
No matter how many Easter messages we have heard, how many times we have tuned out or expected the familiar ending, Jesus renews our hope that through him, walking, and living in his power by his authority we can pull off the unexpected, turn those fiery darts the adversary sends into our life purposed for our emotional, mental, physical, financial, relational, spiritual destruction, into good, pulling off the unexpected, using them for our good and God’s glory.
Yes, we know, and we have heard it said Jesus rose from the dead, he reigns, is sitting at the right hand of God, but he does not want to be in heaven without us. He may have died on the cross alone, went into the tomb alone, but he does not want to be the only one who emerged from suffering victorious. He does not want to be the only one who has power and authority over darkness and sin. He wants us to remember if we share in his sufferings we also share in his glory. Let’s Pray,
Dear God, you created us for a beautiful ending, and through Christ you have given us just the opening and elements we need to pull off the most incredible story ever. As we share in Christ’s suffer, may we also remember we share in his glory. Thank you for the twists and turns that amaze the world and shock the devil. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.