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Friday, April 10, 2009

A Straight-edged Horror

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 (New American Standard Bible)

I was cleaning my church in preparation of Good Friday. I moved a large cross up on the stage and then sat down to contemplate in the quiet of the moment. As I did I had a chance to really look at the instrument that took the life of our Lord. The more I looked at that cross the more I was astounded that God would choose this way to redeem us from our sin. Incredible. I was thinking how I would think of other ways to do it rather than offering my only child, or taking the sin of a rebel race on myself instead of destroying the mess and starting over again. As I was looking at the cross I thought I'd dress it up so I put some of the silk planters around the base of it. It actually took away from the meaning, making the cross look “softer” in a sense. It certainly wasn't soft in any respect and it wasn’t meant to be pretty. I pulled the plants away from it and just left the cross as it is naturally, a straight-edged horror. It wasn't a soft and easy death for Jesus, but it was the way He chose to die.

The cross was never meant to be a merciful death. The idea of a merciful death is what John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul met. They were beheaded, dying quickly. Death on the cross was intentionally created and carried out to bring the highest degree of pain, suffering and humiliation to the criminal. Jesus, who was the perfect sacrifice, without sin (1st Peter 2:22), was executed as a common criminal, there was no mercy intended and He received none.

What kind of Being would not spare His own Son but allow Him to die such a horrible death to save a fallen race? I say this not as a judgment against God but with astounding awe. The love and devotion of God to a race of rebels is in itself a story that is beyond belief. God in His all-knowingness knew Adam and Eve would rebel when He made them and it was always His plan through the ages before it happened to redeem those very creatures He would create through sacrificing Himself on their behalf. The cross is indeed a straight-edged horror but a horror taken without hesitation on our behalf and the means of a new beginning. Through Christ’s redemptive act of shedding His blood on this horrible instrument of death we are able to be brought into a new relationship with God. This instant in history ended in Christ’s glorious resurrection and a throned seat at the Right Hand of the Father. It was a horrible way to die yet brought a wonderful way to live through Christ for the ages yet to come.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Silent Saturday

To Thee, O Lord, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me, Lest if Thou be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Psalm 28:1 (New American Standard Bible)

Passover had arrived but this Sabbath had been like no other under the Law of Moses. The Lamb had been slain but His body was in the tomb. Forty-eight hours before His disciples had been walking and talking with Him. Now they were in hiding from the religious authorities and God’s voice was still. Heaven had gone silent.

I can’t count the times in my own life when I’ve strained to hear a little of God's voice to me even hoping to hear a whisper. There were times I heard nothing but silence and could only trust that He was still there and still in control. The disciples of Jesus had witnessed God in human form; Jesus the Anointed Christ of God. They had lived with Him, walked with Him, saw Him eat and sleep having been firsthand witnesses of His mighty power and miracles. Now he was taken from them and in His place was only a deafening silence. As they huddled themselves away they were completely unaware that within 24 hours their world would be rocked and wonderfully redirected forever. Salvation in Jehovah God had been offered to the whole world through the sacrifice of this one Lamb and history would be liberated through what these men and women were about to witness.

When heaven is silent trusting God is one of the hardest things to do. Knowing He is near and working even when He isn’t speaking sometimes takes greater faith than I feel I have. However I have found when things are quiet He’s usually the hardest at work. Even as Jesus was silent to those who knew Him on this quiet Saturday His plan for their lives was still in dynamic motion. The world was turning and nothing could stop tomorrow and the sun from rising on an empty tomb.