Something terribly shocking happened in the Garden of Eden. The third chapter of Genesis records how the close connection between God and the people is broken. They had been as close as any family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued for years. Hundreds of years. Thousands of years.
To begin to understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is Jesus, on the cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship.
He is taking the blame for people’s sin and on the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is the cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God. Jesus closed that gap and he still reaches out, with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side.
This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as evil, and it includes you and me, and even enemies.
When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Our sin is destructive and it hurts God.
Looking at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people.
The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God that overwhelmed the thief on the cross next to Jesus,
and it reaches as far as you and me. The love of God is a healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family.
Yet we humans are still weak. It is a one-sided relationship. God is the strong one. But it is a new beginning and it gets better as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit that brings us to trust in the truth. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.
At school we might have collected footy cards. Actually I never did but I have in the past several years been the financier of such a practice were cards are bought, then swapped and traded with other such parties. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us and traded not the discards for something better, but traded himself for the discards so that he could call them, call us his own.
Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us.
We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God that reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives. God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.” No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.
The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love and faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially what he did for us on the cross.
We conclude with the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:38 and the following verses about God’s love.
“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.
Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”