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COLUMN: Life doesn’t always turn out like we expect

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By Steve Gettinger | Pastor of Risen Lord Lutheran Church

Luke 23:44-49 says, “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be Mary on the day that Jesus was crucified?
I wonder if:
- she noticed Jesus’ blood stained hands and feet from where the nails were driven through them.  
- she thought about the crown of thorns that pierced his scalp until it bled.
- she hated those who did this to her son, those who ruined the hopes and dreams that she had for him.
Imagine being Mary as she watched as Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white linen shroud.
Life doesn’t always turn out like we expect, does it?
Think about how life was just a few days before Jesus was crucified. Things were so different. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt with thousands of people waving palm branches and cheering for Him.
With great enthusiasm, they cried aloud, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! … Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10).
Imagine the excitement, the energy, the passion of that day. It must have made Mary proud. I wonder if she thought to herself, “maybe Jesus is the long expected King who will deliver the Israelites from their enemies.”
But then, everything changed when Jesus was betrayed, arrested, put on trial and nailed to that terrible cross. Her hopes and dreams were shattered. She had nothing left except the haunting image of her son being taken down from the cross.   
Life, doesn’t always turn out like we expect, does it?
The older we get, the more we discover how true that statement is.
The excitement, the energy and the wonder we experienced as a child can often fade away, leaving us with a somewhat mundane life of bills, work and family responsibilities. As we grow up, we often learn that the hopes and dreams of our youth may never get fulfilled.
Some people live their lives with the  “If onlys for happiness”:
- If only my marriage was better … then I would be happy.
- If only I had more money or a better job … then I would be happy.
- If only my children did not go down the wrong road … then I would be happy.
- If only I were slimmer and more attractive … then I would be happy.
So often in life:
- We do not maintain our marriages and they grow cold.
- Exciting careers turn dull or become overwhelming.
- Children grow up and sometimes lose their way.
- Youthful bodies grow old, break down, and often get out of shape.
And then, when we least expect it, tragedy strikes. Suffering, disease, and death disrupt our humdrum lives, waking us from our slumber and causing us to cry out in despair.
“Why, God, would you allow this to happen? Why, God, does life have to be so full of sorrow and pain and hurt?”
This question gets asked by a lot of people with no easy answer.
That question can only be understood in light of the cross of Jesus Christ.
I could see Jesus’ mother, Mary, asking that question as she stood at the foot of the cross watching her son die a horrible death. But three days later, I am pretty sure that things became a lot clearer and more bearable, when she saw Jesus appear before her very eyes in that upper room in Jerusalem.
As Jesus stood there in that upper room, strong and full of life, showing Mary and the disciples his nail-scarred hands.
I wonder if Mary looked at those nail scars in a different way that day.
I wonder if instead of thinking that those nails ruined her life, she realized they were used to save her life and the life of every man, woman, and child that would receive the incredible gift of faith in Jesus, as their Lord and Savior.
You want to know what I hope for us today:
- I hope that when we are going through the challenges of this life that we turn to Jesus for help.
- I hope that we reach out to each and help each other.
- I hope that we will realize in the midst everything we go through that God is with us and will give us the strength to go through it.
You see, it is very likely:
- that we will not get through this life without some serious challenges.
- that life will trash some of our trophies.
- that some of our dreams will not come true.
- that our lives will not turn out as we expect.
If those things happen, look to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith who is waiting for our arrival in heaven:
- where our challenges will cease.
- where we will lay our trophies at the feet of Jesus.
- where the ultimate dream will be true.
- where our lives will turn out better than we ever expected.
Amen.