Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday - Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Today is Good Friday.  It is a day of conflicting feelings for me.  It is a day I rejoice in that we commemorate the day when Jesus paid for our sins.  Today we celebrate a debt we can never pay being paid freely for us by the death of Jesus on the cross.  On the other hand, today is a day of mourning and I mourn for the same reason.  I mourn today because we commemorate the day that Jesus died for our sins.  Today we commemorate the day the skin on His back was ripped and shredded not because of a crime He committed but because of the sins I chose to commit.  Today we commemorate His beating and humiliation not to pay for His crimes, but as punishment for my transgressions.  Today we commemorate when Jesus had his hands and feet nailed to a cross and was hoisted up to die slowly and painfully for all the world to see not because of anything He did wrong, but because of everything I did wrong.  Yes, today is bitter sweet because I rejoice in the love poured out by Jesus in dying for my sins but I mourn for the fact that He had to.  I mourn because even now I still sin and even the sin I commit now was born by Christ on the cross, but now I know it.  That is me, a man on my way to righteousness who still stumbles daily.   I am the man who tortures the Man who loved me more than anyone else possibly could even today when I choose to sin.  I often wonder why He loves me so much despite how much pain I have caused and continue to cause Him each and every time I fail. 

The fact is, though, that He does love me.  The fact is that He, for whatever reason He has, wants to spend eternity with me.  The fact is that despite my constant adultery through idolizing my flesh each and every time I choose self over righteousness, He wants me as His bride.  The fact is that despite how much pain I brought Him on the cross, He wants to give me eternal life in paradise.  I do not know if even in Heaven I will understand the strength of His love.  I do not think I can ever appreciate enough just what He has done for me.  I do not know if any of us can.  There can be no greater love than what He has given us, the Bible says as much.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:7-8 NKJV
With that in mind, let us look at what Jesus said on this subject.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.  John 15:13 NKJV
Please do not think that I am about to criticize the Word of God.  I say what I am about to say in all humility.  But to merely say that Jesus laid down His life for us is the understatement of eternity.  Jesus did not just push us out of the way of a car to get hit instead of us. Jesus did not merely perform the duties of a Secret Service Agent and step in front of a bullet for the President.  Jesus did not merely run into a burning building like an heroic fireman of today and tragically lose his life in the process.  Jesus did not merely stay behind to take on enemy fire and a sure death so his comrades can escape with their lives.  I do not say "merely" in those statements to in any way denigrate the heroic and brave examples I gave, I only use the term "merely" in comparison to what Jesus did for us.  I do not think we can ever possibly comprehend what Jesus went through for our sins.  I have taught several Good Friday messages in my time in Children's Church and no matter how graphic I tried to be, I do not think I ever captured it.  Mel Gibson made a movie that made a valiant effort at illustrating the pain Jesus suffered in all its graphic gore.  What we can never capture though is the one part of that punishment that was worse than any scourging, beating, humiliation, or crucifixion.  That worst pain was becoming the sin of the world and feeling the wrath and subsequent separation from the Father.  Think about it, Jesus knew no sin. He was and is perfectly and eternally righteous.  He is pure righteousness and He utterly abhors sin in any form.  Yes that vile disgusting thing that He hates with all His being is what He became for us.  He became not just a sinner, but all sinners.  He became not just a thief, but all thieves. He became not just a liar, but all liars. He became not just a rapist, but all rapists.  He became not just a man who rapes and kills a child, but every man who ever lived who raped and killed a child. He became Genghis Khan, Emperor Nero, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and every other tyrant, genocidal murderer, terrorist, dictator, and corrupt leader who ever lived and ever will live.  He became not just all of them, but also you and me.  Every sin we committed, every lie we told, every time we acted out in anger, every time we entertained impure thoughts, every time we got drunk, everything we ever did anything that was any kind of sin, He became and was punished for so that we might live.  And for that, if even for a moment, He bore the immeasurable pain of being separated from the Father. 

This is what the Bible says about what He became and why.
For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
So with all of that, how can today be sweet at all?  It would not be if not for Sunday to come. It is by His death that our sins are punished, but it is by His resurrection that we have Life.  We rejoice in not only that He no longer suffers, but that none of is have to as well.  He is seated back in His rightful place on His throne at the right hand of the Father and He is preparing our place with Him.  We rejoice in that His death paid once and for all for all our sins so no one, not Him or us, have to suffer again for those sins. We rejoice because of our unbelievable unimaginable eternal home in paradise paid for entirely by Jesus Christ on the cross.  It is a gift He has given to us, of His own free will, and out of the abundance of His love and gifts are meant to be celebrated not mourned.  He gave us a glorious gift that should be celebrated, appreciated, and rejoiced over and not one that we accept with guilty apprehension.  Today and Sunday are what make the irony of the second Beatitude make sense:
Blessed [are] those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4 NKJV
Yes, we mourn for our sins, but we are blessed that our sins are forgiven.  We mourn for the death of our Lord, but we are comforted by His resurrection.  Happy are those of us who mourn today, because we are the ones who know that Jesus paid for those sins. 

It is ironic that this year Good Friday coincides with Earth Day.  I do not celebrate Earth Day, but I do agree with those who do on one thing.  The earth is groaning.  In fact, all of Creation is groaning.  It is not groaning, though, because of our industry.  It is groaning because of our sin.  It is groaning because of the curse of sin.  Creation is not awaiting us to begin recycling or cut our carbon emissions, but it is awaiting the return of our Lord and for our final redemption.  In that, I join with Creation.  I await the promise of His glorious return and my final redemption when I am finally free of this corrupt flesh and present in my eternal glorified body.  That redemption is when we finally see all that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means for us. The glorious day of His final return draws nearer and nearer with each passing breath and it can not come soon enough!  That is the message of Good Friday and Resurrection Day.  His death was only the beginning and His resurrection is only a promise of what is to come.  The real message is our eternity.  The real message is the return of Jesus to take us to our eternal home in paradise.  The real message is to finally be free the flesh that is ever presently at war with our spirit.  The real message is eternity.  I will not be making a post tomorrow.  There is nothing I can write that does justice to the time between the death and resurrection when all of Creation held its breath awaiting the return of the Lord.  It is much like that now only now instead of days it is thousands of years.  Do not lose that anticipation.  Do not lose that excitement for what is to come.  Mourn for the sin that Jesus had to die for, rejoice in His resurrection and the promise it brings, and always look forward to the glorious return and our eternity to come.  I can not say it any better than John did in Revelation 22:20 when he proclaimed "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." 
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected [it] in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only [that], but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  Romans 8:19-23 NKJV

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