In the shadow of the cross,
Side by Side with bitter loss
Bloomed a garden, passing fair,
And they laid the Saviour there.
Sad, they thought his day was done,
But, afar, his rising sun
Flung a quenchless ray across
To the garden near the cross.
Jesus, give to us to know,
Though in loneliness we sow,
We shall pluck the fairest flower
In the sacrificial hour.
Sorrow hides beneath her wings
Recompense for sufferings,
And the blessing waits for us
In the garden near the cross.
by Albert Osborn (1886-1967)
Have you ever had those candies that look sweet and sugary on the outside but just wait…
The first bite into them and it makes you …
I guess you could call it bittersweet.
But all fun aside, the bitter and bittersweet I want to talk about, is truly on a human scale. We’ve all had some kind of life crisis where we think our pain will never go away, that we have to suffer physically and that no one else could possibly feel what we feel. We feel isolated and alone that no one understands, not even God.
We linger in this pain because we feel that is no other way to cope with life, that there is no hope for something else. I guess you could call this “the bitter“.
But wait a minute…if you look back at the life of Jesus, didn’t he suffer all of the above and even more. What about His deepest rejection, His pain and His heartache. He took all that to the Cross for who? For me and for You!
Jesus knew loneliness. He knew the warmth of family life, but in preparing for His ministry and service to His Father, this offended his family at times and drew him apart from them. Like when He was a child and He spoke to the scholars in the temple and His parents scolded Him. Luke 2:41-52 and John 7:1-5 even His brothers (step-brothers) did not believe Him. We also find Him alone in the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, as we are often when were are lonely. No one there but Jesus and Satan. Luke 4:1-13 Even with the closeness of his constant companions, the disciples, they were far from understanding fully his purpose and sacrifice.
Jesus knew isolation. Jesus knows that His time on earth is about over. He is thirty-three years of age when He prays and knows full well what He is about to face. Jesus is isolated in the sense that there is no other human to go to with His ordeal. John 17 is the prayer Jesus prays to the Father alone.
Jesus knew what it was like to be misunderstood. Jesus was liked by some and hated by others. Many people had thoughts about who they assumed Jesus to be, and many times they were wrong. Jesus’ sayings were often received in the wrong way by those who failed to understand what he really meant. Like in Matthew 16:13-16 where people thought He was either John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Or in John 3:3-4 when he was telling Nicodemus about being born again. Then again in John 15:18 where Jesus explains that if we are hated in this world, remember that the world hated Him first.
Jesus knew betrayal and abandonment. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own, Judas. By one he loved. With a kiss he was turned over to be arrested. Matthew 26:47-48 Then later by another of his own, Peter, who denied three times ever knowing Jesus. Matthew 26:31-35 and Luke 22:54-62 Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. Matthew 26:56
Jesus knew verbal and physical abuse. The soldiers of the governor took Jesus and mocked Him, spat on Him, made a crown of thorns and struck Him on the head. Matthew 27:27-31 Jesus was nailed to a cross and after He died His side was pierced by a soldier. John 19:31-37
Jesus knew death. Jesus died. But praise God He didn’t stay dead for long! The ultimate miracle. For Jesus arose on the third day. The stone before the tomb was rolled away and Jesus walked out. Matthew 27:57-66 and Matthew 2
Jesus knows all of the things we go through. He has an understanding of what it actually feels like. Because He was just like us – human. All of these things are bitter.
But the sweet part of the “bittersweet” is when Jesus died…He didn’t stay dead. He lives! Which is the hope for something better. Because when you allow Him into your heart, He walks through your hardships with you. Your mind is renewed to thinking, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
You can hold your head up higher…the loneliness, being misunderstood, abandoned, even verbal or physical abuse will dissipate over time. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?. Romans 8:31 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 As Paul said, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 Which in a nutshell is saying that with Christ on our side there is nothing in this world that can separate us from Him. And when it comes to death…no we won’t be raised in 3 days like Jesus, but we are assured that we will live with Him forever in heaven. “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption , and this mortal has put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory”. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 Our final victory over death is our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the hope, the something to live for. Because He lives, we can live too. This is what makes this life here bittersweet. It’s bitter for the time here and now, but oh so sweet in the hereafter.
Jesus said, “…And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 14:5
I hope those of you reading this own a Bible and if you don’t have one get one. (There are many places where you can get a Bible for free. Or even download a Bible app.) I have left you some homework in that I want you to read these passages for yourself. Perhaps you will see what I mean by the bitter and bittersweet, as Jesus was truly human to understand our needs, and truly God to bring us love and comfort, always. It brings tears to my eyes.