If you ever want a study in contrasts look no further than the events of Good Friday leading up to Easter. These three days were about walking the talk, putting your money where your mouth is, when the rubber hits the road, seeing how beliefs hold up in the ‘real’ world, witnessing what ‘you’re really made of’. It was a tough, truthful, violent, gritty revelation that ruthlessly exposed the heart of man and the heart of God – a bloody mess when the dust settled.
What was all the fuss about?
The meaning and purpose of life, the attitudes of the human heart, the relentless love of God, the perversion of religion, the cancer of evil pock-marking the human spirit to a degree where blind eyes and deaf ears seemed normal to those afflicted. Until this One pierced their darkness with His light, befriending a few so they could hear and see like never before. Revelation from heaven touched the earth for the first time since Eden expelled a young couple embracing a snake. If you listen you can hear the ‘hiss of the viper’ from Thursday to Friday through the lips of men ‘not knowing what they do.’
It was a fight to the death, and such was the venom dripping from the viper’s fangs that those once bitten had no idea of the poison flowing though their veins. To them it appeared righteous anger, spiritual, traditional, keeping the faith. They were sincere, committed, passionate – and completely missed the mind and heart of God in their process. In fact they resisted and opposed Him so vehemently that they crucified His Son and set Barabbas free (Barabbas without the love of Abba = Bars/Prison?).
The venom-afflicted-flesh manifest in a variety of destructive ways the hallmarks of the viper. In Judas it was betrayal, in Peter it was denial, in the other disciples it was fear, in the Sanhedrin it was righteous indignation, in the armed guards it was blind obedience. Everyone was justified doing what they believed to be true, until it was too late.
Only Jesus never succumbed to the viper’s bite. Betrayed, flogged, deprived of food and sleep, in His weakness He stood firm. Even though everything about Him looked defeated, a lost cause, a dashed dream, an heroic failure, a pathetic prophet crucified as a heretic and a loser.
“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing!”
“Oh yes we do,” came the cynical retort.
“It is finished,” whispered on His dying breath. And as His bloody brow, crowned in thorns, bent away from heaven no one but the angels saw the viper crushed – once and for all.
They carried Him – so dead – to lie behind a massive stone in a borrowed tomb. Roman guards kept watch by night (no shepherds as at His birth) to ensure the crucified corpse remained that way. This is when God ‘shuffled His feet’ and neither hell, nor Rome, religion, nor a tomb could outwit, outmaneuver or overpower Him.
On the third day the grave clothes were all that remained as Jesus rose from death as no man has ever done before. Terrifying? You’d better believe it. Well they couldn’t – right away. First Jesus appeared to Mary as a stranger in the garden and then hugged her as a friend.
“Mary,” He said.
“Rabboni,” she cried.
“Don’t hold onto me, go and tell our friends, and Peter……”
When they heard the news they ran to the tomb and saw for themselves. Later they ate with Him in the Upper Room, walked on the Emmaus Road, shared a meal on the shores of Galilee. Over 500 people witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. He was alive! God’s not dead, locked in a book, hiding in a temple, defeated by religion; we couldn’t kill Him after all! And He’s not seeking revenge?!
Those three days changed the world.
The Creator is neither a ‘big bang’, first cause, abstract deity, nor a figment of our collective need for a spiritual crutch. He lived among His created for a season. We were so numb and lost we’d no idea. He entered history in the form of a man so that we could be reconciled to the One who gave us life. We could never have worked it out without a magnificent revelation. The same is true today.
The battle never ends. What do we do with Jesus? Is He a fraud, an imposter, a myth, a joke, a crutch for the weak, a good man but no more, one of many paths to God? Is He the real thing? The Son of God, whatever that means?
Where are you around these three days in 2018? Cheering for Barabbas, backing the religious status quo with the Sanhedrin, betraying Him with Judas because He challenges, denying Him with Peter because of peer pressure? Are you indifferent? Are you curious? Are you thankful, amazed, humbled, impacted, drawn closer with the revelation of God the Father’s love revealed through His Son?
Pilate said: “I find no basis for a charge against this man?”
The crowd shouted, “Crucify him!”
Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”
The criminal on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The Roman centurion said, “Surely He was the Son of God.”
And down the ages:
I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” –Augustine
Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and Jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. –Unknown
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis
Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: “a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb”. Jesus entered our world through a door marked,”No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit.” –Peter Larson
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammad, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. –Philip Schaff
I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.–H.G. Wells
I say: Jesus is my Lord and my God. My Savior, my friend, my strength, my redeemer, my bread, my water, my life……
There are many, many more…….
And what do you say about Him?
Jesus says about you: “My beloved son or daughter, whether you know me yet or not, I know you, believe in you, and love you more than you’ll ever comprehend. Come to me, all who are weak and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest… and so much more.”