The Agony and the Beauty

Today is the day we consider Christ’s agony. Sunday is the day of His beauty.

Or is it reversed?

Certainly in terms of what the cross and the empty tomb meant to the physical person of Jesus, the above is a true statement. And yet I wonder about His heart, for we are told that He endured for our sakes. Perhaps His focus on us changes everything.

Was what we see as the agony of the cross–the physical suffering–a thing of beauty for Christ? His sacrifice on our behalf was His gift to us. His willing yielding of Himself to the plan for our redemption. After all, it was “for the joy set before Him,” we are told in Hebrews 12:2, that he endured the cross and scorned its shame.

On the other hand, perhaps what we see as the beauty of the resurrection came with some agony, too. I recently read a Watchman Nee devotional about Mary’s encounter with the resurrected Lord that caused me to stop and think. He said this: Then, turning, she saw the Lord she knew so well–and she took Him for a stranger. Was there a bit of agony in the fact that those who knew Him best would not recognize Him without accepting a new revelation of Him? Watchman Nee continues: Because He had changed, the means of knowing Him had necessarily changed too. Only through His speaking to her did Mary know Him, and it is thus alone all revelation comes. This “not knowing” Him happened not just with Mary, but with those men on the road to Emmaus and others. Jesus had to tell them it was He. Was the beauty of His disciples and friends accepting the new revelation of Him preceded by agony over their lack of recognition? It’s an interesting thought.

This weekend as you contemplate the cross and the empty tomb, think of the agony and the beauty present in both. Oh, how grateful we are for the cross! Oh, how joyous to know the resurrected Christ! And yet so very, very many things in life, both physical and spiritual, have an element of both–a requisite agony before beauty is born.

Hebrews 12:2