Out of Crucifixion, God Brings Resurrection
“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. … After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” — Matthew 27:28-29
During Holy Week, we remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember how Jesus was betrayed by one of his friends, denied by another, beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers, condemned to death by the Roman governor Pilate, jeered and hated by crowds of people, forced to carry the cross on which he would be killed, and was crucified, died, buried and resurrected. It is painful to consider the magnitude of suffering and rejection Jesus endured during the last week of his life here on earth.
This week as I re-read the story of the suffering and death of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel I discovered a connection between the suffering of Jesus then and our suffering today with the coronavirus. This disease is named corona because, under a microscope, it looks like a crown with pointed spikes.
Matthew tells us that after Jesus was arrested, the Roman soldiers stripped and whipped him with a leather strap with nails in it. Then they put a soldier’s cloak on him and “after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head” (Matthew 27:29). A crown of thorns was pressed down on the head of Jesus until the blood ran down his face, inducing even more pain. Then he was taken outside Jerusalem where he was nailed to a cross and died.
Today we are all going through suffering and death caused by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, which is like a deadly crown of thorns being pressed down upon us.
But just as God brought resurrection and new life to Jesus out of his pain, suffering and death, so we believe God will bring resurrection and new life out of the pain, suffering and death brought to us by this pandemic.
Two weeks ago I conducted a graveside burial service in Indianapolis for a good friend of mine who died from the coronavirus. The family and I did not get near or touch each other, but we did weep together and affirm our faith that neither death nor life nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). We affirmed our faith that just as God brought Jesus from death to life, so God has given our friend who died eternal life in Christ.
Our Christian faith tells us that out of every crucifying experience we go through in life, our loving God goes through it with us and will bring resurrection and new life.
We believe in God’s healing power which, working through our prayers and love for those infected and through the loving care and skillful research of medical professionals, will bring this pandemic to an end. At Easter we celebrate God’s ultimate victory over this evil life-destroying illness and put our trust and hope in our Risen Lord.
One of my favorite Easter hymns has this chorus: “Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!”
Hallelujah, Christ Arose!
Grace and peace,
Dr. Kent Millard
United Theological Seminary