Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jason's Cross

If you knew him, it's not hard to envision Jason Ray in Heaven. Nearly without exception, he was overly-excited about life, which is to say he was closer to being properly excited than the rest of us. Sometimes when he was around, you had to remind yourself that this was still the fallen, painful world. He exuded that kind of joy.

Since the accident Friday afternoon, a lot of internet, newspaper, and television space has broadcast how many lives Jason touched. Leadership for Bible studies. Love for friends and family. Birthday parties for strangers. At one point, Jesus describes us as branches which produce fruit when grafted into the vine, the vine being himself. Jason's branch bore good fruit.

I have thought about the cross a lot in the last 24 hours. The story of the crucifixion made me interested in Jesus. I was, and still am, a huge Civil War nut, drawn to the tragedy of men dying for others which moves me like little else. Into my life strode this man Jesus who claimed to have died on the cross for all humanity. No other man or god had claimed to do such a thing. The cross soon became very dear to me.

In the past 12 months, I have heard many simplify and demean the cross, even if unintentionally. Merely a consequent-less symbol of God's love for us, one said. Jesus reaching out to the oppressed by becoming one of them, another told me. The result of corrupt politics, someone mentioned. Not a real event but an allegory, I heard.

The past five days, this cannot be true. Forever, this cannot be true.

When the life of a friend, someone with plans and potential, ends what seems all too early, hope does not come easy. When I got off the phone after hearing the news from my brother, I cried. I was angry with God that I risked having hope and that he failed me. I was angry that so many people about whom I cared so much were and would hurt. Jason had died. After days of hope in the face of worldly reality, I had none left.

Until I was reminded of the cross. There is no hope save in the cross of Christ, and I mean that today more literally than words can express. Where is the hope when the parents of a 21-year old, soon-to-be college graduate have to make the decision to take him off life support? Oprah has no answer for this. The "heal yourself in 30 days" books at Borders have no answer for this. As my friend, Alex Kirk put it on his blog yesterday, "Either [Jesus] is alive, and so is Jason, or all is fruitless, empty, just a random SUV hitting a random person on the side of the road." Furthermore from the Heidelberg Cathecism, "Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?. . . . A. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life. . ."

The god-man Jesus Christ walked this Earth and gave up his life (mind you, it was not taken from him) on the cross in a fiercely loving moment of physical and spiritual pain I will never fathom. He stared death, even the tragically painful death of a 21-year old, in the face and took it all head on. He bled and died because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, no justice. Without the forgiveness of sins there is no Heaven. Without Heaven there is no hope.

On that cross, unspeakable power pried open the doors of eternal life, the doors of hope.

Jason's life bore much fruit. More than he knew and probably more than we even know. My hope today is not found in these stories though. My hope today is not that Jason was a "good guy." My hope today stands staunchly in the fact that Jason accepted this cross. He did the work of the believer, that is to believe in Jesus, the one who God sent. Jason claimed the cross as his.

I still have some tears left in me. I can feel them. Plus, I stay well-hydrated (an old cross country habit). But the tears will not be the tears of hopelessness like they were yesterday. The tears will be for his family who misses their son and brother. They will be for my brother and those at UNC who have an empty chair at the lunch table. They will be for my sophomore year Bible study who have experienced the first loss of a BOFFO orange and green shirt.

I will not weep for Jason or because of hopelessness. The cross, real and powerful, will not allow it. It moves me to hope. No, it DEMANDS that I hope. It has taken Jason to a place where he is finally fully completed and fully satisfied in God, the only anything that can fully satisfy.

It has taken Jason to a place where friends don't die.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Wilson said...

Reading your blog tonight reminded me of when my grandfather died back in the fall. I too, after the initial anger, despair, and other waves of emotion, found hope, peace, strength, and consolation in the cross. The cross turned death, as much as I hated it to come, into a beautiful thing. I honestly can't say definitively that it made it easier. Part of me says it did, but the other part knows and still feels the great pain of losing someone so close and wonders how could pain have been lessened if it did/does hurt so much. I think it does help, but all the same, the emphasis should not be on the pain either way.

The cross of Jesus....wow, what power!! "For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:" - Romans 8:3

Ben said...

Thanks for the Scripture, Wilson. That's good stuff.

I agree that remembering the cross may not immediately dull the pain. I've found that hope is something that you have to battle for at times like this, and the cross does provide a reason to hope. As I reflect on this whole process, the cross certainly does not make me FEEL better all the time (which is never the purpose of life anyways).

Yet, I cannot imagine the despair and futility of encountering death without it.

Thanks for chiming in!