Between Weeping and Rejoicing

22 03 2008

With the passing of Good Friday in the Easter celebrations, and the anticipation of Resurrection Day tomorrow, we are left with the painful memory of Golgotha, and the powerful prospect of an empty tomb. We are between weeping and rejoicing, between all-pervading horror and overwhelming joy. This is the paradox of the passion of Christ, this is the wonder of setting aside time to think of what He has done for us in His death, and what He has gloriously achieved in His resurrection.

This note of muted pain, or suppressed joy, is wonderfully sounded by Spurgeon in a sermon preached on the 3rd November 1878 entitled ‘Sorrow at the Cross Turned Into Joy’. It is a meditation on John 16:20-22 where Christ states ‘ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and you heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you’.

The great preacher’s thoughts on these words are characteristically lyrical, and filled with intense love for the suffering, now risen, Saviour. They have blessed me at this Easter season, and I trust that they will move your heart also.

“We were just singing now a hymn in which the first verse started a difficult question:

It is finished; shall we raise
Songs of sorrow, or of praise?
Mourn to see the Saviour die,
Or proclaim his victory?

The case is well argued in the second and third verses:

If of Calvary we tell,
How can songs of triumph swell?
If of man redeem’d from woe,
How shall notes of mourning flow?

Ours the guilt which pierced his side,
Ours the sin for which he died;
But the blood which flow’d that day
Wash’d our sin and guilt away.

The conclusion at which we arrived in the concluding verse seems to me to be the right one:

Lamb of God! Thy death hath given
Pardon, peace, and hope of heaven:
‘It is finished’; let us raise
Songs of thankfulness and praise!

The chief thought connected with the Redeemer’s death should be that of grateful praise. That our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross is a very natural cause for sorrow, and well may they who pierced him, and we are all among the number, look unto him and mourn for their sin, and be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Before we know that we are pardoned our grief may well be exceeding heavy, for till sin is put away we stand guilty of the Saviour’s blood. While our souls are only conscious of our guilty share in the Redeemer’s blood, we may well stand aghast at the sight of the accursed tree, but the case is altered when by faith we discern the glorious fruit of our Lord’s sufferings, and know that on the cross he saved us and triumphed in the deed…
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