Henri Nouwen tells the story of a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. Enraged townsfolk wanted to turn the boy’s funeral into a huge protest march, but the doctor chose another means of protest. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail—naked, scarred from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay not in a coffin but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on public display.
Isn’t that what God did on the cross of Calvary? There Jesus hangs, beaten and bruised, stripped and alone—for any and all of history to see. It’s grotesquely unfair. There were many that week who called for his death.
Perhaps, we do the same. “It’s God who ought to suffer, not you and me,” say those who bear a grudge for the unfairness of life. The curse word expresses it well: God be damned. And on that day, God was damned. The cross that held Jesus’ body, naked and marked with scars, exposed the violence and injustice of this world. The cross revealed the kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness and a God of sacrificial love.
Not one of us is exempt from such unfairness—be it tragedy or disappointment, even Jesus was not exempt. Nor does Jesus offer immunity to us, no way out of the unfairness, but rather a way through it to the other side.
Good Friday demolished the kind of instinct that says “life ought to be fair.” It’s not. Life’s not fair. Easter Sunday follows with a startling response—out of life’s darkness a bright Light shines. The truth is this—the Cross overcomes evil, but not unfairness or even pain and struggle. For that Easter is necessary—the bright promise that someway, somehow God will make all things right. The hope that what happened to Jesus that Easter morn, God is going to do for His whole creation. What God did for Jesus, he has promised to do for each one who is in Christ.
In the final book of The Lord of the Rings, there is a climactic moment when little Sam Gamgee suddenly discovers that his friend – the great wizard Gandalf – is not dead but alive. Sam cries out: “I thought you were dead! I thought I was dead myself!” And then Sam asks an immensely important question: “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
Easter says, “YES!”