4/21/11

Why Good Friday is good



"The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came."  Oswald Chambers



"The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind."  Oswald Chambers







"Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is an absurdity and there is absolutely no need for it. What the world needs is not “a little bit of love,” but major surgery."


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My son Roman asked me the other day why we call today "Good Friday" when Jesus died on the cross.  That doesn't sound like a good day.  
This past year I have been pondering, reading, and seeking to understand the cross and all it stands for more than I ever have.  In part my search for fuller understanding is spurred on by a fragment of the church that seeks to make the gospel of Jesus more comfortable, politically correct, and appealing to the masses.  In doing so some have  attempted to downplay or completely remove the wrath absorbing, mercy displaying, beautiful, terrible cross from the redemption story of mankind. 


  Along with the many diverse attributes of God, the purpose and person of Jesus has been further eroded and distorted to meet us on our own terms. The belief in ourselves, our worthiness, our loveliness, and the faith in our own human potential has rallied itself against the reality of our human condition and the crucified Jesus Christ. 


How can an ancient instrument for torture and death be not only good but wonderful?
  
Jesus hung dying, nailed to rough cut wooden beams.  
 By all appearances humans had defeated God.  
Death had victory over life.  Dreams were crushed.  Expectations were shattered.  All was lost.  What his followers of that time didn't realize, and we too easily forget is that...
The cross was chosen and the cross wasn't the end.  3 days later the victory would come.


It was not God's afterthought to redeem mankind.  It was not an unfortunate twist of events that martyred a "good teacher".  It was not a sideline to another gospel of Jesus.  It IS the very foundation, the pivotal point in history, and God's only provision for a race separated from it's creator.   

At the cross God poured out His own anger and hatred toward sin upon the sagging, torn, bloodied shoulders of Himself, God the Son.   Jesus drank the last drop of that cup for us. 

The day that we are able to stand righteous, forgiven, and pure before a Holy God...is a very good day.  Good is completely inadequate to describe how incredible it truly is.


"But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! " Romans 5: 8


 We can't fully understand or appreciate the fullness of God's love and mercy if we don't also acknowledge our desperate need for it and our hopeless separation and condemnation without it.   There is no greater love that this.  

The cross was Jesus carrying the weight, the shame, the guilt and the just punishment so that we could be reconciled to our Creator, who in his perfect Holiness cannot shrug and wink at our sinful state...just because he loves us.  That would not be Love, that would not be a mighty, just, Holy God...it would be a man made comfortable version of God.   It would be man worshiping himself.

The passion of the cross was so much more than nails, torture and death.  That alone does not pay the penalty for human sin.  After all, most of his disciples and early followers died in similar or worse ways.  It was the cataclysmic event that took place beyond the curtain of what bewildered eyes could see.  Perfection became cursed.  The One who knew no guilt, no shame, no sin...became sin for us.   God hates sin. He knows how it destroys us and those around us.   He knows what it cost  to forgive.   The weight of that burden is what caused Jesus to weep , pray and sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.  


Sin is not wrong doing, it is wrong being.  Each one of us have inherited the nature of our fallen world, the nature of sin.  We are born under the curse,  outside of the Kingdom, and Jesus provided the door for us to return to the Father.  The loving Father God that  desires each one of us to return to a life giving relationship with Him but He doesn't force us through that door, or allow us to build our own.  Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin.


 If wrong doing was our only problem , a good teacher, a wise prophet, or a sentimental philosopher would suffice.  God would not have come to die in our place.   


"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."  Romans 3:23-26


   Seeing Jesus as our therapist, a dreamer-poet, and merely a good example to follow does not accurately portray the God that evokes such an ardency of spirit in his followers that we can't help but desire with ever fiber of our being to be emptied of self, annihilated, and filled with the living Christ.  Following the "way of Jesus" (as an alternative to being made a new creation by the crucified and risen Christ) may inspire us to live better lives and try to be better people but it will be the 'good' that can never be good enough.  That illusion of self-sufficiency will either bring pride or despair...not repentance and transformation.  


God is overwhelmingly holy, all-knowing yet made himself known, astonishingly merciful, mysteriously eternal, perfectly complete, comfortingly sovereign, absolutely righteous and abundantly loving. This is the God that inspired the prophet Isaiah to fall to his knees when he saw the glory of God.


"Woe to me!" I cried.  "I am ruined!"
For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken
with tongs from the altar.
With it he touched my mouth and said 
"see, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying
"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" 
And I said "Here am I.  Send me!"
Isaiah 6:5-9


 The sum of my good deeds is a heap of filthy rags without Christ's sacrifice and glorious grace.   In Him alone I am made clean, whole, and guiltless.   It is in Christ alone that I can live abundantly, show grace to others, forgive the unforgivable, and love the world like he does.  

It is His exquisite glory,  consuming love, extravagant grace, and undeserved mercy that was lavished on us at the cross.  This is the atoning, sacrificing, life transforming, prodigal love that wins.  This is the love that I am so completely consumed by ,and grateful for ,that I can not possibly deny or diminish it with a counterfeit.  

 This is the love that won when Christ uttered the words 'It is finished'.   





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