From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the leaders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. ~ Matthew 16:21
When you read through the story of the Bible, one of the things that makes it gospel or good news is a forward looking expectation of better things that will come, even if for the moment they look worse. There is a longing for something greater, something better that hopes beyond the ultimate veil in life which we call death. In realizing our mortality, we are hardwired it seems to think beyond. If we have no hope that there is something greater to be had post our final breath in this life, then we are left struggling to live our best life now. But if we have hope for something greater in Christ, then we live now to our fullest in Jesus but long for the greatness of what is to come.
When we think of Good Friday and Easter, they are truly cause for contemplation and celebration. It was for sin that Jesus chose to be beaten and bloodied and nailed to the cross. It was for sin that he absorbed every last drop from the cup of God’s wrath on behalf of his people. More personally, my sin contributed just as much to that as anyone else who has ever walked upon the earth. It was for us he died; it was for me he died. Contemplation. It is a proper thing to marvel at the wretch that I am and the unspeakably amazing grace that God bestowed upon me to make me his child when my heart desired only to spit curses at his face.
It was for his glory and the eternal hope of his people that Jesus did not simply give up his life but also took it back up. It was for his glory and our lives that he busted down the doors of the grave and walked resurrected. And when his disciples stood in a dumbfounded awe (and we feel like doing the same), Jesus replied, “Do you have anything to eat?” and he took a bite of fish. He is alive. We have hope that no grave will contain us as well. Our minds are filled with joyful hope. Celebration.
So when we come to this week each year, we spend time reflecting back on the cross and the empty tomb. Both are the sure foundation of everything we hope for and everything we have to live for.
But let us not forget the anticipation…
Hebrews 12:1-2 compares life to a race and urges us to run faithfully, gunning for the prize and shucking off sin. We do it as we are cheered on and encouraged by the witness of all the faithful saints who have ran the race ahead of us; and we do it by focusing our eyes upon our goal and delight—Jesus himself.
Jesus, when he ran the race and took on the shame and suffering of the cross, endured not for the cross itself but for the joy set before him. He saw his throne (12:2), he saw the delight of his Father (Matthew 17:5), and he saw the gathering of a people zealous for him and his works (Titus 2:14).
Running towards the cross, he looked beyond. Anticipation.
And so it is for us, Paul wrote (Titus 2:11-14): we have salvation through God’s grace—the very acts we contemplate and celebrate in the cross and the resurrection. His grace not only justifies but it also sanctifies, training us to turn away from the sin and fleeting pleasures of the present age, and turn to the righteousness and good deeds fit for God’s people.
With this, we have our blessed hope—not what is past (though that is our foundation), but what is coming future: the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us.
So let us contemplate and let us celebrate, but also this weekend let us anticipate. Let us long for that time where we will be face to face with our Savior-King and our own bodies will burst forth from the dust of the ground to be glorified forever. Let us live in anticipation, inviting others to long for him and be satisfied by him alone as we praise the name of Jesus.