Follow Jesus (Good Friday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever! To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Ps. 22: 24, 26, 29
The road to Easter resurrection goes through Good Friday’s dying. Every single transformative journey takes the same path. This is, at least in part, what Good Friday teaches us. We all must die. Like the grain of wheat, we must fall to the ground and die for new life to begin
Once again, the Psalmist reminds us that those who are truly surrendered go down to the dust. That’s where we began at Ash Wednesday, and it’s appropriate that this is where we approach our conclusion of the Lenten season, as well. The poor will eat. Those who return to the ground will bow. We don’t see Jesus in the lofty heights but in the liminal spaces. Every human journey of transformation must take this downward path.
In fact, St. Paul takes it a step further. He calls our path a crucifixion. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Ga. 2:20). He has been crucified? What does that even mean for you and for me?
It means that parts of us Paul calls “flesh” and many call “false self” must die. Each must go down into the ground, through the cruciform path, and be transformed. Self-sufficient and shame-based parts of me must die, and controlling and cavalier parts of me must die. My cruciform journey must touch every part of me – every not-yet-transformed part of me – until I become wholehearted, which I call the experience of oneness and worthiness in Christ.
The renowned British pastor and theologian John Stott helps me understand this when he writes:
What we are (our self or personal identity) is partly the result of the Creation (the image of God), and partly the result of the fall (the image defaced). The self we are to deny, disown, and crucify is our fallen self, everything within us that is incompatible with Jesus Christ (hence Christ’s command, ‘let him deny himself and follow me’). The self we are to affirm and value is our created self, everything within us that is compatible with Jesus Christ (hence his statement that if we lose ourselves by self-denial we shall find ourselves). True self-denial (the denial of our false, fallen self) is not the road to self-destruction, but the road to self-discovery.[i]
This is our Lenten work, but this goes beyond Lent. This work continues through Eastertide and into Pentecost and throughout all of the seasons of the church year.
But this is delightful work. You see, all this talking of dying and cruciformity might sound negative and messy, but it’s really about unshackling you from every idol and addiction and attachment that weighs you down. Truth is, life in the fleshy-false-self is enslaved life. It’s unfulfilled life. It’s burdensome life. It’s momentarily-satisfying but soul-sucking life. It’s non-life.
If John Stott is right, the new way through Good Friday leads to self-discovery, an opening of ourselves to becoming full known in Jesus. Remember when Adam and Eve hid. Now, we come out of hiding. We move toward vulnerability. We take the adventure of self-disclosure, the risk of intimacy. This is abundant life. This is freedom – naked and unashamed.
In a sense, it’s what we’ve all been hungry for since the beginning. It’s what the primeval story of Adam and Eve teaches us. We were made for more. And Good Friday is the ultimate gateway. Through our poverty, into the dust we go, trusting God’s goodness to see us through into transformation.
Crucified Lord, you died so that I might live. And you’ve paved the path for life, and life abundant, through the Cross. May I take this journey with courage and boldness, open to the transformative work you’ll do in and through me. Thank you, Jesus. Amen
[i] John Stott. The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2005).