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Friday, 3 April 2015

GOOD Friday?

It is, at first sight, a strange way by which to refer to the day that commemorates someone dying the particularly cruel death by crucifixion.  Why would anyone refer to such a day as "Good"?

The answer to that question is, of course, to be found in the identity of the One Who hung on that particular cross, on that specific day.  This was no common criminal - even 'though He died a criminal's death.  This One was Jesus of Nazareth - not only, as the inscription proclaiming His 'crime' proclaimed, "King of the Jews" but, in fact, the Saviour of mankind.  

Of course apart from using it as a piece of fashion jewellery, the world (i.e. those who live as if God does not exist) despises the cross, and the One Who hung on the cross.  As the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, wrote - centuries before the crucifixion of Jesus - "He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not." (53:3).

Why did He die?  It was not because He had no choice in the matter.  As God the Son, He was able to ask: "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53).   No, the reason for His death was, quite simply, your sin - and mine!  His death substituted for ours. He was the sacrificial “... Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This Lamb is none other than God the Son Who, as Paul was later to write, willingly “... emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And, being found in human form, ... humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:7-8).
Remarkably, even God the Father “despised” Him as He hung on the cross, for God is holy and sinless and, for our sakes had “ ... made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.(II Cor 5:21).  It is not so many years since I first noticed that 'be' that I have emboldened, and the reality of it suddenly became clear.  Jesus not only ... bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (I Peter 2:24).  He actually became sin - sin in all of its blackness, and vileness, and heinousness, and accursedness.  When I did realise that, I also realised that it was at that moment, in time, that the Father, in His sinless holiness, turned away from the Son.  It was at that moment, in time, that Jesus uttered what is referred to as the cry of dereliction: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt.27:46).

The chorus of one of the old Christian hymns - with better theology than some of its modern counterparts! - goes like this:
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, 'til my trophies at last I lay down.  Yes, I'll cherish the old rugged cross; and exchange it, one day, for a crown.”

On this Good Friday, do you cherish the cross, and the One Who hung on it?  Do you?!

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