Do you ever watch a movie you’ve already watched or read a book you’ve already read? I confess – I frequently find myself doing both of these things. The element of surprise is definitely gone but not of satisfaction as I relive the drama, the dilemma, the mystery, the struggle, the trial that needs to be overcome, along with the main characters. I can again be drawn into the story, even though I know how it will turn out. While the element of surprise is missing in my rereads/repeats, also absent is my fear and my worry over the outcome of the story, which I normally experience with a first read or a first viewing. Why? Because the first time I don’t know “the rest of the story.” I don’t know how it is all going to work out for each of the characters in the narrative. Will it end well? Will it end in defeat, disaster or death? Who is the killer? Will they finally get together and find true love? So many unknowns.
But with the reread or the rewatch, the fear, the anxiety, the worry and yes the suspense and the surprise are gone as I relive the story along with the people in the narrative. Except this time, I know how the story ends. This time, I know “the rest of the story.” I can read it/watch it without despairing that the hero/heroine will ever overcome the obstacles and achieve victory. Because often, just when all is lost and all options are exhausted, something unexpected happens and everything changes in that moment. All things are possible once again. I love a happy ending – and ending full of hope and possibility. Who doesn’t? Those are my favorite movies. Those are my favorite stories.
Maybe that’s why I revisit them over and over again. For some that might be the “Rocky” movies. For me the stories told in “Glory Road”, “Stand and Deliver”, “Hidden Figures”, “The Ron Clark Story”, “Harriet”, “October Sky”, “Rudy” and so many more, are the stories that continue to inspire because they are true and because they remind me not to give up but to hold on to hope and to keep fighting the good fight.
Today is a day for revisiting an age old story, the story of Good Friday. Good Friday is a memorable day in the history of the world. It is on this day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is one time I am glad I already know “the rest of the story.” I am imagining today what it was like for Jesus’s disciples, family and friends on the first Good Friday more than two thousand years ago. They didn’t know “the rest of the story.” They were living the story in real time. And the story was still being written right before their eyes. (of course God had written this story from the foundation of the world and the prophets had foretold it years ago but still, they didn’t seem to know how it would end)
So let’s join their story in progress. Their leader, their rabbi/teacher, their friend, their miracle working healer, the One who raised Lazarus from the dead, walked on water, calmed the sea and fed the five thousand was now hanging on a cross, being crucified between two criminals, as a public spectacle for all to witness. Three years earlier these men had left their families and their jobs to follow this Jesus and join Him in His work. Now they were watching Jesus die and wondering what would become of them.
I wonder if any of them recalled Jesus’s words to them from Luke 9:22, when He said –
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders. chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
We read the same account in Mark 9:31-32, told in these words,
“because He was teaching His disciples, He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.’ But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.”
And now Jesus was hanging on a cross and there was nothing they could do to rescue Him. Luke 23:46 records for us how it ended,
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ When He had said this, He breathed His last.”
Our story continues,
“Now there was a man named Joseph, . . . a good and upright man . . . Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’s body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. . . . The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His (Jesus) body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”
They were preparing spices and perfumes because that was the custom to prepare a dead body for burial. These women understood the finality of death. They were preparing for a funeral, not a resurrection. The disciples had scattered, devastated by the events they had just witnessed. What began with such promise had ended with such a painful punishment. Did any of them call to mind Jesus’s words in John 16:16 during the dark days that followed His death?
“In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me.”
Jesus’s disciples must have been filled with confusion, doubt, fear and despair following His death on that cross. How long that first night and the following day and night must have been. Death is so final. They had no plan B. They had each given their lives to Jesus and now He was gone. They had faced challenging times while Jesus was with them but He had been there to teach them and to guide them and to show them the way through trouble and hardship. Doubt now seemed to fill all the spaces their faith had filled just a few days earlier. Jesus, the light of the world, had died and the world was once again a dark place.
I can’t imagine witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus and not knowing “the rest of the story.” But that’s exactly where the men and women of that time in history found themselves, on the other side of the cross, where “the rest of the story” had not yet come to pass. They didn’t know a Resurrection was on the way. They didn’t know there would be light in the darkness and hope for the hopeless once again. They didn’t know the Creator of all life was about to triumph over death.
All they knew was that this miracle working Messiah lay in a tomb and everything He had began seemed now to be finished. They were sure it was over. There were no more options open, no more cards to play, no more moves to make – the last chapter of this story had been written. Now the book was closed, the tomb was sealed with a large stone, the end had come and endings are just that – the end of the road, the end of the journey with no more paths to take, no way to continue on, and no way of escape. Endings are full of the futility the appearance of finality brings with it. If only the disciples could have known that there was a “rest of the story” yet to come, as they mourned their loss. If only they could have known that this “end” would soon give way to a new beginning, their grief could have contained hope. But this wasn’t a reread of a familiar story (unless you count the Old Testament prophecies). This story was being written even as the disciples grieved its ending and Jesus’s death. They didn’t know. They didn’t know that they just had to hang on for a little while – hang on to something – to faith, to hope, to the words Jesus had spoken in their presence. They didn’t know this story wasn’t over. They didn’t know there was to be a surprise ending (really a new beginning) – an unforeseen yet long foretold plot twist which would fulfill every prophesy and save every soul. What a rescue! What a comeback! The greatest comeback story of all time! But they didn’t know “the rest of the story.” They didn’t know – a miracle was on the way! Our story continues –
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. . . . suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. . . . the men said, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.’ ” (Luke 24:1-6) Matthew 28:5-8 tells it this way,
“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. . . . So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples.”
What a joyous reunion that was! The resurrection of Jesus changed everything for everyone! After being reunited, Jesus continued teaching His disciples saying,
“This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. . . . This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
And preach the good news of Jesus’s resurrection they did! This good news is still being shared and celebrated more than two thousand years later. Today we are remembering the crucifixion, but even as we relive it, we have the advantage that knowing “the rest of the story” gives us. We have the assurance, the sure hope that Sunday we will celebrate the Resurrection. We know how the story ends! We can read the book! (the Bible) And like with so many of my favorite true-life stories, remembering the defeats and the difficulties, makes reliving the victories all the more joyful.
in these days when hope seems to be put on hold indefinitely, I will rejoice in these words as I celebrate what came out of what seemed man’s darkest defeat – God’s greatest victory and gift to us – eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
sincerely, Grace Day