Matthew 27:45-50 “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’ Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’ And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”
Easter is a time for both sorrow and for hope. We remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s brutal torture, death on the cross, and resurrection. Good Friday has always been a somber day for me. But when Sunday comes, my heart rejoices in His resurrection and victory over the worst that our world could do to Him.
C.S. Lewis, famous theologian and novelist, recalls these emotions and events in his bestselling classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan, an unmistakable Christ-figure, offers himself to the White Witch in Edmund’s place. Edmund, the third Pevensie child, had betrayed his family and Aslan’s forces when he went to serve the White Witch, the novel’s equivalent of Satan and evil incarnate. As Aslan lies broken and defeated on the Stone Table, ready for the Witch’s killing stroke, the Witch says some of the most chilling and hope-sucking words in the entirety of The Chronicles of Narnia:
“And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost you own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
We are all like Edmund. We’ve all conspired against God and sinned countless times. We deserve the penalty of death that was reserved for us. But Jesus, our Aslan, took that burden upon Himself, submitted to the punishment and ruin that would have been ours, and sacrificed His own life for us. And for a time there was no hope. For a time, evil had won. For a time, we were guilty of nailing our Savior to that cross because of our sin. Lewis, as the narrator, speaks to his readers after Aslan has been slain in Edmund’s stead in order to show the despair and anguish which Susan and Lucy feel that night:
“I hope that no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been–if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you–you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how if felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in this dead calm, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder.”
The two Pevensie girls don’t know what’s coming. All they know is what has happened, and they have lost all hope that Narnia will be redeemed, believing Aslan to be gone forever. Undoubtedly, Jesus’ disciples (especially Peter, who denied his Lord three times), who at that time did not understand what Jesus had told them about His resurrection, felt a sense of hopelessness and loss. We’ve all felt it. We feel as though there is no good in the world, no hope, no love, no strength, no faith, no will to carry on. Many people feel that on a daily basis.
But that is not the end of the story.
For the Pevensie girls, it happens the next morning. For Jesus’ disciples and for us, it happens on the third day. Hope is made new. The tombstone is rolled away. The Stone Table that held Aslan’s slain body cracks irreparably. Jesus rises from the dead. Lewis’ Jesus-figure Aslan is alive once more.
“[W]hen a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s dead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
“Then Lion and Witch had rolled over together but with the Witch underneath; and at the same moment all war-like creatures whom Aslan had led from the Witch’s house rushed madly on the enemy lines, dwarfs with their battleaxes, dogs with teeth, the Giant with his club (and his feet also crushed dozens of the foe), unicorns with their horns, centaurs with swords and hoofs. And Peter’s tired army cheered, and the newcomers roared, and the enemy squealed and gibbered till the wood re-echoes with the din of that onset.”
The victory has been won. The debt has been paid. Our sin is forgiven and forgotten, powerless because of the power of God. Jesus is alive, having conquered all sin and death, and we have a cause to rejoice because evil doesn’t have any hold on us if we accept His salvation for ourselves. We have hope in the Lord and His power. And that, too, is just the beginning.
So even on Good Friday when all seems lost to sorrow and we realize the extent and power of evil, we can remember that God’s power is greater than any other. And we can remember that, as the disciples and as the Pevensies did, soon it will be a new day and God’s power will overcome the evil that is in the world.
Sunday is coming. And through Christ’s death and resurrection, we have hope greater than any other, and that alone is cause for rejoicing and praising His name. God bless us all.
Matthew 28:5-8 “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.’ So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”