We're now well into Easter season, standing between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday. That is, we're standing between Jesus' victorious entry into Jerusalem as King, as Messiah, as the one who was going to deliver Israel (and all humanity!) and restore all things, and the day that so-called Messiah died a shameful, criminal's death on a cross - certainly not the sort of thing you'd expect of a mighty, powerful, sent-by-God King.
When Jesus entered the city the people were no doubt asking the all important question: who is this man? They would have heard about how he'd restored people's sight, healed cripples, challenged the religious authorities, spoken of freedom for the downtrodden, welcomed the outcast. In fact, just before Palm Sunday, in Bethany, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Here was the Messiah they were waiting for, the one who would stand with them in their pain and misery and fight for them. The one who had power over death!
Many in the crowd on Palm Sunday were there because of Lazarus. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was so powerful that many were coming, not just to see the so-called Messiah, but to see the man the Messiah had raised. So many people were coming to Jesus because of Lazarus that the chief priests decided he needed to be killed as well (John 12:10-11).
So what happened between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday? How could the excitement, passion and hope of the Sunday so quickly dissolve to disillusionment, frustration, doubt, anger? How could the people who yelled "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" turn to yelling "Crucify him" in just a few days?! And how could the Lord of glory be crucified as a common criminal? No doubt you'll hear a sermon or two this weekend exploring some of these issues, so we won't explore them now...
The remarkable thing is, we still live between Sunday and Friday - between the victory of Jesus the King and the reality of suffering & death. Or better yet, we live between the tension of Easter Friday and Easter Sunday. Friday represents pain, suffering, sickness, sin - and how God steps into the midst of it. It's God coming alongside us in our mess, standing with us and taking upon himself everything that keeps us tied down, broken, distant to God. It's the ultimate expression of God's justice, where he says "The world isn't how it's supposed to be, and I'm not going to stand at a distance - I'm going to do something about it." But Friday's the day God's Messiah dies, when hope seems lost, when sin and death seems to have won. Sunday represents the victory, the defeat of death, the putting-back-together of everything broken and disjointed in the world. It's God's ultimate declaration that death isn't the final word, that God's justice will prevail, that the whole creation really will be liberated from it's groaning.
We live between Friday and Sunday.
We live in what is famously called "between the times" - between God's ultimate act of reconciling the world to himself through Jesus, and God actually putting all things back together. Jesus' death and resurrection - and the coming of the Spirit - was the down-payment, the guarantee, the foretaste of what God will do for all creation. And we get to experience it already - we experience forgiveness of sins, healing of sickness, God's peace, God's very presence. Yet we only experience it in part - we're forgiven and being transformed, but sin is not yet overcome. We witness radical cases of God's healing... but not everyone is healed. We know God's presence, but he often seems distant. We are stuck between the 'already' and the 'not-yet.'
Our Mission Partners, in many ways on the 'front-line' of what God is doing around the world, certainly experience this 'already/not-yet.' Many of them witness people coming to faith, people drawing nearer to God, people healed and set free. But they also experience unique sicknesses due to where they live, heightened stress, distance from family, sometimes fear of troubles or even disaster. In fact, at present there are a good number of our Mission Partners who are experiencing this 'not-yet' of our faith. We've recently told you about a cholera outbreak and drought where the Akesters are based. Dianne Bayley has been suffering due to a slipped disc in her back. Margaret Poynton fractured her tail bone and was diagnosed with malaria and dengue fever. Todd, the medical director of the hospital Miriam Tillman works, recently died from Lassa fever, a contagious illness that could potentially spread. And there are others who for various reasons we can't mention here.
During this Easter season we're encouraging the NZCMS family across the country to set aside some time for focused prayer for the physical, spiritual and emotional health of all our Mission Partners. Would you consider taking some time over this Easter to pray for our partners in all corners of the earth as they continue working with God 'between the times,' between the tragedy of Easter Friday and the victory of Easter Sunday?
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