Oh no. He's there again. Right outside the department store door, between me and my grocery bags filled with the food I’ve just purchased for Easter and the street where I'll catch a jeepney for home. He's standing as usual. Dirty tatters cover his legs, spread wide for balance, and his arms reach high in supplication as he mutters his plea for alms. He won't see me avert my eyes and look away. I look anywhere but at his disfigured face and blind eyes. He won't see me. And I don't want to look at his suffering, or to get anywhere near it.
Could this somehow be a failure on the part of God, that this man should know such shame and misery? Is God in reality not powerful enough to eradicate his suffering...and for that matter, the suffering in my life, and in yours, and in the lives of those we love?
Or is all this suffering somehow mysteriously linked to that hill in Israel where Almighty God carried out the final horrible details of an earth-shaking, history-making plan masterminded even before He spoke this earth into existence?
Because He planned it just as it happened.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship Him, whose names are not written in the book of life
of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
The cross wasn't some cosmic disaster, nor a gentle gesture of sentimental goodwill somehow spun tragically out of control.
Those one-inch thorns driven deep into Jesus' head,
the lacerated back laced with ribbons of bleeding flesh required to shoulder a 75 pound cross-beam,
tapered, square-shafted five-inch iron spikes pierced into the median nerve of the wrist, inflicting severe, excruciating pain,
His every breath an agony of effort,
and the darkness,
the worst of all.
The darkness of God's wrath, as He turned His back.
Every single detail was planned from before time. God planned this suffering? "Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves." - Joni Eareckson Tada
Is it possible that our suffering may be exactly what God has planned to accomplish something far more valuable than comfort and happiness in our lives?
As I look at Christ’s outstretched arms, into His face distorted with agony, into this suffering, is this not why I celebrate Easter? Is this, after all, the real food of Easter? Without His sacrifice I'm utterly helpless. All my righteousness is like filthy rags, my eyes are blind to the gospel, and my life distorted by sin. Could it be that I look to God exactly like this beggar man in front of me?
But because of His suffering I am brought back to God (1 Peter 3:18) I am healed. (Is. 53:5) I am forgiven. (1 Peter 2:24)
Only by the suffering of Christ is my greatest suffering, my agonizing need for Him, finally filled.
Right here is the true food of Easter.
*edited from the archives