Friday, April 18, 2014
Of course, no one actually "killed" Jesus in the usual sense. He offered himself as the ultimate sacrificial offering to atone for the sins of man for all time. As we mature, we can better appreciate the wonder of Jesus having willingly laid down His life as opposed to it having been "taken" from Him (John 10:18). It was this willingness to give Himself that makes the day of His crucifixion good.
It is fitting that we ought not to think too deeply about Calvary without being gripped by a profound sense of sorrow. Nevertheless, a great good happened that day, and though we may truly understand but little of it, we can wholly accept its great goodness, and embrace it within the very depth of our being. Only in the light of His cross can we see such great goodness!
"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 NASB).
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The liturgy of Passion Sunday is a collision of themes: glorious hosannas and somber omens. Isaiah promised a servant of God who would have a “face like flint” to brave the pummeling, spit, and ridicule. Paul’s lovely hymn in Philippians is one of triumph—“in the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess”—but only after disgrace and ignominious death.
In the gospel reading from the Saturday prior to every Passion/Palm Sunday, we behold the crisis of allegiance that the people of Jesus’ time faced. In that gospel, Jesus is condemned by logic of self-defense and corporate survival. Chief priests and high councils are threatened by Jesus and his way. He is a menace to national and religious interests. Note the language: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
Caiaphas, that “realistic” murmur of expedience in all our hearts, advises us: “It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”
From this telling statement rises the suspicion that the crisis of Palm Sunday is the crisis of every epoch and culture. We are torn between Christ and the tribe, between casting out allegiance with Him or with the nation, between the king’s call and safety’s comfort.
Under every moral crisis lurks a dread that if we ever fully followed Jesus, we would lose our holy privilege and our clannish protections. In Jesus’ time He was rejected and condemned for reasons of national security. So He is today.
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Human encounter with the transcendent God has always been met with resistance. But the idea of a God wholly independent of our sway is especially repulsive to man’s current contemporary taste. After all, it requires a terrible admission of our insufficiency. It demands recognition by each of us that we cannot rescue or save ourselves. It commands a yielding to, a humble listening for, an obeying of another that is utterly beyond our mere human minds and wills.
The Gospel tells us we are mere humans standing in need of salvation and that we are powerless to do this for ourselves. What is more, we are all sinners who desperately need to be healed of our moral wounds. This, we believe in faith, has been done in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and promises us a world beyond our earth and our earthly projects. It is not by dint of human science, alchemy, or artifact that our meaning can be found. It is only by God¹s kind favor that we are what we are and that we are made for something far greater still.