In remembrance of the anniversary of the death of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross on Good Friday. He died for my sins so that I might live.
The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (The Message)
Death. The final frontier…..
Most of the time, we don’t like to talk about death very much. We don’t like to be reminded that one day we will all have to face it. For some people, death represents the end. The end of life, the end of a relationship, the end of everything. For others it is the end of one existence and the beginning of another.
When you get to deal with sickness everyday, you soon understand how the fear of death paralyses people. I sense the fear whenever I have to announce bad news to patients. Invariably they will come to the stage of asking if the illness will lead to death. Death is seldom celebrated. We might recall with fondness, someone we love and try to remember all the happy memories we had when that person was still alive, but we seldom want to remember how he died, much less glorify it.
Very few people in history have had their death recorded and remembered in such detail as Jesus Christ. Every year the events leading to up to the crucifixion are re-enacted. Why such a glorification of death? It was anything but glorious. It was in fact, a brutal execution. If Good Friday happened in our day and age, we might have a sillouette of a hangman’s noose or electric chair rather than a cross to represent the faith. Surely such things are best left in the deep recesses of history.
Jesus Christ led an extraordinary life. For the first 30 years, he was a relatively unknown carpenter. Then, suddenly, he appeared on the scene and started to do miraculous things. At the beginning of his ministry, he stood up in the synagogue and boldly declared his mission statement:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” Luke 4:18-19
Unfortunately, he also ruffled a few feathers.
The Jewish authorities were angry with him and concerned that too many people are following his teachings and diminishing their own influence over the masses. The Romans were concerned that so many people were following him, that an uprising might be on the horizon. They understood that the Jewish prophets have prophesied that a “Messiah” would come to deliver the Jewish people from the Romans. For them, this was a clear and present danger.
Something had to be done to nip this in the bud.
So the religious authorities staged a farce and got the Roman authorities to agree to his crucifixion. However, at the climax of the trial, even the Roman governor admitted that he could find no grounds for the man to be executed. However, because of the threat of an imminent uprising, he allowed the crucifixion of an innocent man. According to the Romans authorities, he was charged with being “The King of the Jews”. This was certainly not a crime that deserved the death sentence.
They took him away, flogged him, put a crown of thorns on his head and nailed his hands and feet onto a cross. Then he was left to die a humiliatingly slow and agonising death.
But even in the last moments of his life, in the midst of the hatred and injustice, the mockery and shame of nakedness, he still demonstrated the magnificence of his character. Crying out to God, he asked for forgiveness for the ones who nailed him onto the cross, since he knew that they had done it out of ignorance. With his arms spread out fixated to a wooden beam, he still embraced the repentent thief and promised that he shall be remembered in paradise. He took the time to speak to his mother tenderly and made the necessary arrangements for one of his disciples to take care of her after his death.
At around 3pm that afternoon, after he had hung there for several hours, a strange darkness came over the whole land. It was the time when all the sins of the world were placed upon him and judgement for the sins was executed. God had to turn his face away from the Son he loved as he died while taking our sins upon himself. He was utterly alone. This was a burden he had to carry by himself. In desperation he cried “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” which in Aramaic means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When judgement was complete, Jesus cried out “It is finished!” He had accomplished the task He was sent to perform. His death ushered in a new era in the relationship between man and God. It was an era where God could forgive our sins because the punishment for those sins have already been paid for. He had ushered in the the year of the Lord’s favour. I guess you could call it a grace period, where we have a chance to have all our sins taken away just by acknowledging that someone else has already paid the penalty on your behalf.
So what do you see when you look upon that Cross?
Some see a naked man dying. Some scoff at a “god” who could not even save himself much less save others. Some feel uncomfortable seeing the brutality of the act and cringe.
I see love personified. Self sacrificial love. The type of love which is willing to give itself to those who do not appreciate it. The type of love that continues in the face of hatred. It is a love which would eventually win over hardened and calloused hearts. It is the God kind of love.
I see my sins, my hurts, my burdens, my pains laid upon that dying man on the cross. I see my rotten self being crucified and judgement for my sins carried out on that cross. I see my Saviour looking at me in love and telling me that I am worth his sacrifice.
Humans have this deep longing to be loved. Those who have been in love can testify about how wonderful it is to know that we are being loved. The state of being in love is one of the most joyful and exuberant experiences in life. How much more when we truly begin to realise the depths of God’s love for us.
You rescued me and picked me up
A living hope, of grace revealed
A life transformed in righteousness
Oh Lord you have rescued me
Forgiving me, you healed my heart
You set me free from sin and death
You brought me life and made me whole
Oh Lord you have rescued me
Geoff Bullock 1992 Hillsongs