“In the sorrows of Christ… we prepare for Easter, for joy.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

Jn16-20

In order to understand what Walter Wangerin, Jr. is going to say about the above quote, you have to hear what he says about the difference between happiness and joy. The difference is substantial and significant:

The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character, and of character into hope – and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it) disappoint us [You may recognize his reference to Rom.5:3-5.]

Now in that light read and savor this as we prepare for Easter joy:

“In the sorrows of Christ… we prepare for Easter, for joy. There can be no resurrection from the dead except first there is a death! But then, because we love him above all things, his rising is our joy. And then the certain hope of our own resurrection warrants the joy both now and forever.

For the moment, lay yourselves aside. Become one of the first disciples. And in that skin, consider: what makes the appearance of the resurrected Lord such a transport of joy for you? Consider this in every fiber of your created being. How is it that so durable a joy in born at this encounter? – joy that shall hereafter survive threats and dangers and persecutions and death, even your own death?

…This: not just that the Lord was dead, but that you grieved his death. That , for three days, you yourself did suffer his absence, and then the whole world was for you a hollow horror. That, despite his promises, this last Sabbath lasted forever and was, to your sorrowing heart, the last of the world after all. You experienced, you actually believed, that the end of Jesus was the end of everything.

Death reigned everywhere.

Death alone.

But in the economy of God, what seems the end is but a preparation. For it is, now, to that attitude  and into that experience that the dear Lord Jesus Christ appears – not only an astonishment, gladness and affirmation, but joy indeed!

It is the experience of genuine grief that prepares for joy.

You see? The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first, and through it we view a death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples’ terrible, wonderful preparation.

Unless, as now, we attend to the suffering first, to the cross with sincerest pity and vigilant love, to the dying with most faithful care – and thus prepare for joy.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992). This is found in his meditation on John 16:20-22 and 20:19b-20, pp.31-32.