Sometimes Confusion is a Good Thing
I went to my Bible study group yesterday where we read a chapter together silently, and then the leader calls on people to share their thoughts on one or two verses or ideas. We usually have 12 to 15 people there. Yesterday, we read John 7, and then I sat there in quiet amazement as this group of seasoned Christians rambled and stumbled about things that, seemingly, had nothing to do with the text. Many were retrospective, recalling events from their past that also seemed to have little to do with what we just read. As I sat there listening, I asked God to show me what was going on. The best I could determine was that Holy Week is a very confusing time.
I don’t know if it’s this way for unbelievers, but for Christians, I think Holy Week is a time for reexamining who Christ is and what He means to us personally – and I don’t think that is a comfortable or reassuring thing to do. If anything, it is humbling, because we realize how short we come up when we compare who we are and what we do with who He is and what He did. We bring nothing to the cross and He brings everything. We are weak, needy people who desperately needed Him to die for us.
As all the characters of the crucifixion stood there that day watching Christ die, I can understand why they were confused. His followers were confused because they were now sheep without a shepherd. The Shepherd they had put their hope in was now being killed before their very eyes. His enemies were confused because, as false shepherds, they were threatened by anyone or anything who questioned their authority – and yet, what if he were right? He wasn’t like other so-called Messiah’s who had come before. The Romans were confused by the whole affair because, from a human standpoint, it didn’t make any sense. Why all this hubbub over a poor street-teacher? The crowd was confused because they had yet to choose a part to play in this drama, and, like most fence-sitters, were confused by their own double-mindedness.
So, why are we confused, if we are, as we stand on this side of the open tomb? Could it be because many of us are reliving the event in our hearts and minds? Could it be that His Spirit within us is taking us back and reminding us of where we came from?
I love the second thief who was crucified with Christ. I love his honesty, his humility, his helplessness. I think he rightly sums up the situation: we are being punished justly, but this man has done nothing wrong. (We are sinners, Christ is sinless.) Then he makes that incredible statement of faith: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lord, I know You are God’s chosen King. I want to be with You in Your Kingdom, but I cannot make it on my own. You see where my efforts have taken me! Please do for me what I have not been able to do for myself. Save me! Not like the other thief wanted – to be saved physically. Save me the only way that counts – spiritually.)
Christ responds to that kind of honest seeking. It’s okay to be confused at the foot of the cross. That, along with hurt, I believe, is the right response, because life is confusing and hurtful, and especially what was happening that day. But then it must be followed by a cry for help. “Lord, I’m confused, I’m lost, I’m hurting – I need help! You’re the only one who can help me. Please save me!”
“I tell you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.” That from a King hanging on a cross. He was saying, in essence, this is not the end of the story – there is another chapter. And it is a chapter that will see you and Me together in My Kingdom – forever.
Once we realize that He is risen, the confusion dissipates. We realize that He cannot be killed. The One we love, and who loves us, will live forever. And because He lives, we will live, too. But for now, as we relive the events of that week, it’s okay to be confused and hurt. I think that’s part of identifying with His death. But then, on Sunday morning, as we approach the tomb and realize it’s empty – what joy will fill our hearts, and what illumination! It’s true, it’s really true! He is risen, He is risen indeed!
Waitsel Smith, April 5, 2007
For more reflections on God, go to my Reflections on God website.
Text © 2007 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.