Friday, April 14, 2017

Faith for Life - The Mission of God

Preached on Good Friday, April 14, 2017

Scripture reading: John 19:1-37

“It is finished!”
That’s what Jesus said.
Stations of the Cross
Our Lady of the Desert
Mattawa, WA
April 2017
Jesus was not finished, but his mission, the reason for his coming and walking on this earth was very nearly completed. The best was yet to come. But the worst part (not for his friends, but for him) was over now.
Jesus, on the cross, was one, great, open, bleeding wound, one man-sized mass of pain, from the scalp of his head to the soles of his feet. He was wounded by thorns, and the lashing of a special torture whip, and spike sized nails. The nails had torn the tendons in his hands and feet and they had severed the medial nerves in his wrists. And yet, he had to use those hands and feet to lift himself up, to take each breath. The nails held him in such a position that he was forced to use his arms and legs, his hands and feet, over and over again, to push and to pull himself up in order to take each breath: or else not breathe at all.
Somehow Jesus still wanted to breathe, but he was getting very tired. Up and down his body, the lashes of the scourge, tipped with sharp bits of metal or bone had torn through his skin and cut deep into the muscles underneath. In places, he had been cut to the bone.
It’s possible that there are people who have physically suffered more, and for a longer time, than Jesus did. But who wouldn’t say that Jesus had suffered enough?
Right at the start of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist had looked at him, and had seen the super-human nature of his suffering. John said, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Think of what went on inside of you, sometime, when you were completely defeated and demoralized; or completely ashamed and distressed, because you saw the real wickedness of something you had said or done. Think how you felt when you were struck by the brutality and the injustice in this world. Imagine that experience multiplied by the billions and billions of lives of all the people who have ever lived, or ever will live.
Imagine all of this resting on your own shoulders. Imagine all of this wringing at your heart. Deeper than the wounds in his body, Jesus felt this.
It was sin that judged Jesus and nailed him to the cross. If you have ever been able to see the presence of sin in yourself, if you have ever known that the hurt of what you have said or done is really a part of you, then you know that you have a part in the hurting of Jesus, in the judging of Jesus and nailing him to the cross.
If this talk of sin makes you uneasy, then you should know that Jesus was also judged and nailed to the cross by the very best things this world has to offer. Jesus was judged and nailed to the cross by Roman law and order, and by the Roman peace.
Almost everyone in that world was grateful for that law, and order, and peace. It had made their world a better world: a safer world.
But the motivation behind the scourge, and the nails, and the thorns of the cross (the shakers and movers behind this cross) were the leaders of God’s own people who got involved and set it in motion.
Don’t mistake what I’m saying. I’m saying that it was the spiritual people (the holy people) who did it. The good people did it. I’m saying that people like me did it.
The best things in the world killed Jesus because they didn’t want to be found wanting. The truth is that even the best things and the best people in the world can be found wanting. They wanted to justify and prove themselves.
When Jesus said, “It is finished!” he meant that he had completed his work, and done the job of standing in for you (for you at your worst, and at your best). Jesus carries your pain. Jesus carries your burdens and sins. Jesus also carries your pride, and your faulty goodness. He carries all of this away from you, in his death on the cross. They are defeated by his sacrifice.
What Jesus has done is enough. It is more than enough, for you and for the whole world.
“It is finished!” means that the work you need him to do for you is complete and perfect. It’s all there. It can never run out, or be used up.
Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh. What Jesus has given to you on the cross is the infinite mercy and love of God. If you want to see God and the evidence of his love, it’s there on the cross, reaching out its arms. You are on your way to being finished when you find your life complete in him alone.
Look at the cross.
In Jesus, this cross is you.
In Jesus, this cross is the world.
On the cross Jesus makes us know ourselves. When the best things in the world stand up for themselves they shut God out and kill him.
This is who we are and what God must do for us; nailing our lives to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
This is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Seeing the cross is seeing God, and looking into God’s heart.

This is love. This is glory.

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