Never in human history has such goodness encountered such evil.
On a Friday a man was condemned to death. This man was marked by more love than the world had ever seen — read the stories of how he treated the sick, the social outcasts, women, children, his enemies. And marked by more truth than the world had ever known — he more than anyone else is universally acclaimed as the greatest teacher ever. Most remarkably, his death sentence was orchestrated by leaders of the most enlightened religious system of the day — its Scriptures recount the moral failings of its heroes and judge the rich and powerful by how they behave toward the poor. And his execution was carried out by the most powerful empire of that day using the most barbarous means ever devised — no death is more humiliating, agonized and prolonged.
Surely evil had won. The reigning powers had joined in its deeds. The brilliant pinpoint of light, the beautiful ideal seen in this man seemed, as Victor Hugo wrote, “small, isolated, … threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it.” Surely it would soon be extinguished.
Never! That light was “no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.”
There is a Power far above and beyond the powers of empire and religion. In some way, full of mystery, this crucified man was the embodiment of that Power. “In him was life, and that life was the light for all people. The light shines and the darkness cannot lay hold of it” (John 1:4-5). The darkness cannot catch this light, cannot comprehend it or overpower it! And so those who were his followers, first women and then men, witnessed this man alive on the third day.
We wonder why God didn’t stop Friday with its overwhelming unfairness and ugliness and horror and go right to Sunday. Surely suffering is pointless, right? But as James Stewart, the great Scottish theologian, writes,
They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet.
They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.
They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in. …
He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.
When life seems unfair and people heartless and death near, when evil seems to threaten all hope and our hearts start to crumble in confusion and sorrow, let us remember that this One who came among us and loved us is also a Power far above and beyond all the forces of hate and darkness. On that Friday, contrary to what things seemed, good was winning. Somehow evil was being used to gain an even greater good. In the end, this One — and those who align with him — will always win.
Harold N. Miller is pastor of Trissels Mennonite Church, Broadway, Va. He blogs at Interacting With Jesus, where this post first appeared.
Have a comment on this story? Write to the editors. Include your full name, city and state. Selected comments will be edited for publication in print or online.