Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Tonight the pastor of the church I grew up in said in the Good Friday sermon, "We have a far too sanitized view of sin."

I haven't mentioned sin here yet, I don't think. The mind quivers. It is a highly unfashionable word. It echoes of guilt, of shame, of things that the soul squirms at and resists. It is much easier to write of love, yet Mark's words drove through the mind- Can I truly grasp how much I'm loved without an idea of how little I deserve that love?

Good Friday is not the popular service. We go and we break bread and we drink the juice and we sing hymns and we remember our God-Man dying on a tree, two thousand years ago. It sounds primitive, doesn't it? Primitive as sin.

How deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure, posted one of my friends earlier today, the words of a song by Stuart Townend, that He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure. Wretch- another primitive word. The tongue stumbles over that one, the heart resists. Wretch, really? Not perfect, certainly, flawed, of course, but everyone is. Wretch, isn't that too far? Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! There it is again. An old song echoing the words of the new.

Sanitized means to make clean. Is that what I do? Do I try to make my sin clean? Do I dress my death in the mask of respectability, and try to imagine that the leer of the skull is not still present behind? Why am I a Jesus-follower, anyway? Doesn't the mere fact I claim Him as Savior mean that I need saving? That I need life? I was not Sleeping Beauty waiting for the kiss of a noble prince to wake me, to give me meaning and purpose and security in life. I was the decaying corpse in the coffin, already dead in the stench of my rebellion against the Creator, and He looked at me and decided to go to hell and back to bring me to life.

The fingers are aware as I write that these are not popular words. We like God's love, we say very little about God's justice. We hear rarely about His absolute holiness- the breath of Life that cannot endure the toxicity of sin. We like Jesus and we claim Him for our own, for our various causes, we write bumper stickers about Him and pit my Jesus against your Jesus and we forget what He actually came to do- bring the dead to life. Because we do not want to admit our own death. Dear friends, the things we dismiss, you, I, all us respectable people, the things we think won't really harm us, the gossip, the half-truths, resentment against that sister or brother who always got the attention, bitterness against that unkind boss or teacher, the judgment with which we brand others as inferior to ourselves, the quiet satisfaction we feel when misfortune comes to those we dislike, the daily focus of our lives on our own wants, our own desires, our satisfactions, me, me, me– it is not just killing us. It already has!

I do not believe that you can take the Christian faith seriously without taking sin seriously.


I do not believe that you can take sin seriously without taking even more seriously the Cross and why Jesus died there. He died there to bring us to life, to set us free, and out of love burning passion for these helpless hopeless corpses that dress themselves in lipstick and try to pretend life. Out of the flame of love for a creation that turned traitor and spat in His face, Christ said Yes I will come and yes I will live the perfect life you could not and yes I will face and endure to the bottom the justice that you could not face or endure and yes I will make you alive, if you will receive it. 

That is what I believe. Tim Keller says the essence of Christianity is this: "I am more sinful than I ever dared believe, and more loved than I ever dared hope." He also says, "When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone."

In Jesus' case, it was all of Himself. He reserved nothing, held nothing back. When the Bible says love, it points to the Son of God gasping for breath on a Tree, reeling in the agony of the justice poured out for my evil, my sin, my death, and says, this is love. Love that went to hell and back to pour life into my dead heart, to start the contractions and bring forth life, to let my blind eyes gaze on glory and see that we are only alive when we stop playing at being alive and say thank you with out-stretched hands for His life that He gives us.

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom!

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