From the very beginning of our existence, we all have been keenly aware of our neediness and dependence. Our cries for nourishment, comfort, protection, and so much more set us on the path of intuitively knowing that we are both venerable and susceptible to things outside of ourselves. In short, we are aware that death and decay are never far away. Thus begins our journey of seeking to avoid all things painful, decaying, or dying so that we can stay amongst the living. Unfortunately, our human attempts to save ourselves from these dark experiences has only added fuel to the fire of decay and death. In many respects, our attempts have only exacerbated a sense of our impending doom. The story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 perfectly illustrates this dynamic.
Having been excommunicated with their parents from God’s presence in the garden of Eden, these brothers are having to do the hard work of surviving apart from the presence of God and with the ever-present effects of the Fall. As such, when Cain felt slighted by God, though it was actually Cain who presented an inadequate sacrifice, he was willing to sacrifice the life of his brother Abel so that he might be left with Abel’s brother’s blessings. Though the text does not give us much insight into Cain’s motives, a reasonable explanation could be that Cain attempted to save himself by taking out his brother—it was ultimately an act to preserve his physical and spiritual life. How? Well, if God was not pleased with his offering, then it would mean that Cain is entirely on his own to stay alive. However, instead of Cain preserving his own life, the ‘blood of his brother was crying out’ from the soil, condemning Cain for his murder of Abel. But the effects reached even farther: his parents grieved beyond belief and Cain’s act continued to sow seeds of mistrust among the inhabitants of the earth. Despite Cain’s best efforts to save himself, his efforts to keep death and decay at bay has only caused it to grow ever-faster. So it is often with us as well.
By recognizing the futility of fighting death and darkness, both within and without ourselves, we are forced to grapple with what can bring life out of death. Who can conquer our fears of death and decay, including our passions to avoid them ? What would the path to victory over death even look like? How can we experience the blessing of having ‘the sting of death’ removed from our body and souls? These questions are paramount to our ability to live joyous, hopeful, peaceful, and loving lives, for without adequate answers the acts of Cain are not only inevitable but are the logical outworking of a life without hope and meaning as the result of death. Considering only One has ever adequately answered these questions in both Word and deed, it only makes sense that we enter into a season of reflection surrounding the passion of Our Lord Jesus—our only hope out of the darkness of death.
As you prepare to follow Christ to the Cross at our Good Friday services, take some time to meditate upon this triumphant journey that Christ took to give us the victory. (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19). As you reflect and pray through the various passages related to His passion, which he undertook on your behalf, realize that there is no death and no darkness that the Lord has not seen or experienced. He has conquered all so that He may be united to you! Relish in the grace and love of our God expressed through His Son Jesus! May this Good Friday serve to massage ever deeper into your soul the depth of God’s love for you.