We Christians focus on Jesus' life up through roughly the cleansing of the temple, and also on his empty tomb. Both of which are *critical* to His incarnation & the reason for his coming. But to our shame, we minimize events beginning at the last supper & all of the "icky" stuff about crucifixion & abandonment & torture & "why have You forsaken me?" & such. Here's my challenge to myself based on this week; I welcome you joining me in it: spend some serious time pondering Mark 14 & 15. Toss in Isaiah 53 & Psalm 22. Then go to Romans 3. Then wind up at Ephesians 2: 1-10.
Some under-pondered & under-taught things that were vividly on display on that Friday:
--the wrath of God
--the justice of God
--the suffering of Christ, beginning in the Garden well before the crucifixion
Let's ponder them a bit, shall we?
God's wrath & God's justice. Imagine with me a god who does not hate sin & evil. Would such a god be worthy of worship? Nope.
Now ponder with me the God Who is There (to borrow Francis Schaeffer's wonderul description). We like to think of Him as a great big blob of Grandpa-like love...One who excuses everything with a wink and a "don't worry about it". Here's the irony of picturing God that way: on one level, it's true; on another, it's offensive; on yet another, it severely understates God's love.
The Grandpa-God image is true to a point. God's love is not hard for me to grasp, because I'm John Benton's grandson, and John Benton loved me intensely (as he did all of us grandkids!). He lavished time on us & took us to Goodson's store for peanuts & taught us how to crack pecans. I remember one time he killed a snake with his walking stick & his foot, just because one of his grandsons was (is) terribly afraid of snakes. He also took a *deep* satisfaction in watching us grow up to elementary school age & do what boys do. Papa had dreamed of having a bunch of grandsons before there were any of us; I'm grandson #4 of 7, with 3 granddaughters in the bunch as well.
But the Grandpa-God image actually is offensive when taken logically. The image requires a god who winks at & excuses evil. Not just little boys being little boys; willful evil. No justice required, & none expected in this life or in the next. 17 years ago right now, Rwandans were killing each other at a staggering rate (~10,000 per day...for 100 days in a row). The Grandpa-God would at best say "well, I don't like it, but...oh well..." The gas chambers & ovens @ Auschwitz? Excused. The killing fields of Pol Pot? Wink & a smile. Millions dying in Stalin's Gulag? Oh well...it happens...
Aren't you glad we serve a just God? I know I am...
Well, I am when His justice is aimed at "those people" (whoever those people are; clearly someone other than me). When I recall that He is *always* just--even with me!--I get very nervous very quickly.
Two of the most haunting verses in all of Scripture:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth...Romans 1:18
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed...Romans 2:5
Both of those haunt me. And drive me to devastating grief combined with unfathomable joy as I re-read about events of Good Friday.
The grief part is because God's justice requires Him to deal with sin. My sin. Which is great & deserves destruction.
The unfathomable joy part is from reminding myself from Scripture that He HAS dealt with my sin.
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5b-8
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...Ephesians 2:4-5
And that is both the horror and joy of Good Friday. Jesus drank the cup of God's righteous, just wrath fully & completely for all who are in Christ.
It. Is. Finished!
And that, ladies & gents, is what we meant by "amazing grace." I pray I never, ever get beyond the "But God" there in Ephesians 2:4-5 & the "made Himself nothing" part of Philippians 2:6.
One more thing:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He Is Risen!