It was 16 years ago when I watched my 16-year-old son die in Nairobi, Kenya, as a result of a severe asthma attack.
His death on an Easter morning wounded the hearts of an entire community.
People asked me, How can God allow your son to die on Easter? You were only seeking to serve and praise Him among peoples unreached and untouched with the Gospel. How can a father handle watching his son die long before his child’s dreams could be realized?
I imagine God’s thoughts when Jesus died on the cross could have been similar to this:
My Son was a skilled carpenter, but I knew that He was made for something more than shaping wood with His hands. He was made for shaping lives with His words, with a touch or even with His tears.
His life’s work was that of doing the miraculous — He healed the sick, fed thousands, allowed those without worth and unclean to touch Him and to be touched by Him.
He could weep over the death of a friend and almost in the midst of a sob call him from the grave to life again. People were enamored with the miraculous things He said and did. A few people began to discern that it wasn’t what He did that was miraculous.
The real truth, they began to discover, was not that He did miracles but that He was The Miracle.
Others feared what they did not understand. I saw my Son arrested and ridiculed. Their spit ran down His face, their jeers rang in His ears and their tools of torture caused blood to disfigure His countenance.
Cheers from the days before when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey turned to the jeering of a mob as they watched my Son drag His own cross up to a hill of death, where they raised His mutilated body, nailed upon a wooden cross, to the sky.
Today, I watched my son die.
The political and religious leaders of His day thought this was the end of the threat. Those who had followed Him believed their hope was dead, so they denied they had ever known Him. Both sides deeply believed this was the end of the story, this death, this killing of My son — once praised, now once and for all, crucified to death.
And here was everyone’s mistake, their misunderstanding. They believed that crucifixion was the end of the story, that death ended all things — the threat to the reigning government and the people’s hopes for an earthly Messiah.
Everyone was wrong. My Son was not to be defined by the waving palm leaves of the adoring multitude or by the shouts of the jeering crowd. Neither would He be defined by a crucifixion.
There was more to come — more to the story. This was my plan. The crucifixion by man was a prelude to the resurrection by the Father. I allowed and watched my Son die, to be crucified, to demonstrate my love and forgiveness for all people, for all times.
But I am not only a Father of love, I am a Father of power.
And while my love allowed for the crucifixion of my Son, my power would not allow Him to stay dead because I had determined that crucifixion was just the prelude to the resurrection.
For my family, the anniversary of my son’s death at Easter brings this bittersweet reminder — There is no shortcut, no easy way out, no way to avoid wounds made inevitable by living in a broken, imperfect world.
Like God’s Son, my son died way too young and, at least for a season, for unacceptable reasons.
But my family knows that this earthly life is just a prelude to the eternal life we can have through and with Christ. Jesus’ crucifixion was for a moment in time. His resurrection is forever.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” RSV