THE GREAT SURPRISER

Often I think of faith as charging in where God directs, even though everything inside wants to pull back. Faith as blind, almost insane obedience. I think of Jesus riding into Jerusalem not knowing how God’s plan was going to play out, only that it would.

But it’s sometimes hard to grasp faith like this, sitting where we are looking back at the story. We already know how the story ends, and so it’s easy to assume they somehow did too.  

As I look at the Easter narrative this year, a small passage in Luke 23 stands out to me:
“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”

Jesus is dead, along with everything he represented. Resurrection is not even in his followers’ heads. Freedom – not just abstract, philosophical freedom – but literal, actual freedom, seems lost. Keep in mind the Jews are living under an oppressive, pagan regime. People are dying here. And all of their hopes for escape, for Exodus, have been pinned on this man: the Messiah, God’s chosen one, who would usher in a new, restored Kingdom, and who has now been strung up and executed.

The Messiah, simply, was not supposed to die.  

Imagine it for a moment. What would that do to your picture of God? You’ve left everything, gone out in faith, and it seemingly has gotten thrown back in your face.  

If I’m being honest, at that moment, I’d be more than tempted to pack it up. Clearly, I’d want to say, this isn’t working. I was wrong. Maybe I’d even think I’d been duped. I’d have more than enough anger to want to pull back, big time, from God.

But instead, look at their faith. Faith in what? They don’t even know; just faith that God is God, and you want to be near him. So Joseph of Arimathea gently and humbly takes down and buries God. The women, brokenhearted and hopeless, keep the Sabbath. Man, if there was ever a Sabbath to blow, it would probably be that one. But they don’t. They obey. They look into a black future with no foreseeable way out, and they choose to act in faith, obedient to the smallest thing.

I don’t want to forget that. Faith isn’t a transaction. It isn’t saying, If I do this, then God will do this. It isn’t assurance in a specific outcome, it’s assurance in a specific person. And in every example in Scripture, they didn’t know the end of the story. They just knew who was writing it.

That’s what I’m looking for this Easter: a faith that will act according to the character of God, when there seems to be no human way to escape or succeed.

Because God surprises. He is the Great Surpriser.


Tyler Russell lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Cat, and their 5 children where he teaches high school English and explores the connection between faith and art. His writing has appeared in Apiary Magazine and at RelevantMagazine.com, among others. He and his wife have also recently become active in the fight against human trafficking.