It seems that every time we hear or listen to the news that a tragedy has occurred. Tragedies that will affect family members and communities for years and maybe even for the rest of their lives. Terrible times and hurts that can never be downplayed because for those involved and close to them something is lost and things may never be the same again.
Yet the greatest tragedy of all 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 wonderful family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued from years to hundreds of years to thousands of years.
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 God, on his tree, his cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship. He is taking the blame for people’s sin. On the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” A cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God.
Now Jesus closes the gap. Only God can bridge the gap that separates people from him. Jesus 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 broken as the thief on the cross next to him. It includes you and me, and even our enemies.
When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Sin is destructive and sin separates and as we look 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 overwhelms the thief on the cross next to Jesus, and it reaches as far as you and me.
The love of God is healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family in a relationship and that it is a one-sided relationship in that we are still weak and God the strength, that does not threaten to again fracture the relationship, but rather strengthen and maintain it as it was meant to be in the first place. In total trust and reliance on our Lord we are given a new beginning 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. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.
At school, like they do now we might have collected swap cards, maybe of sporting heroes, or music idols. We traded our cards looking for the best ones and the one’s we didn’t have. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us. He sees us as the best card, the card He doesn’t have and so traded everything He had for us so that he could call us his own. He traded himself.
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 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. A healthy faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially on the cross.
Jesus our Saviour who saved us as described in this poem:
Through His sorrows, we discover the depth of Jesus’ meekness and surrender to His Father’s will. This surrender is revealed in what He did not do…
He didn’t defend Himself;
He didn’t revile others when He was reviled;
He didn’t turn away from those who beat Him;
He didn’t slander others when He was falsely accused;
He didn’t hide His face from those who spat upon Him;
He didn’t come down from the cross when He was mocked, and ridiculed.
Meekness is not weakness. He who is Almighty could have called an army of angels to rescue Him from His sorrows, but instead, He chose to go to the cross and freely gave His life so you could find your life in Him.
The author of that poem is unknown but the subject matter most definitely not as we see Jesus with untold power at His fingertips refuse any inclination or temptation to do so, so that rather than His power be used to save himself, He directs it all to save us.
His saving power given to and for us that we hear these words in Romans 8:38, see our God’s love, see our Saviour on the cross and know most assuredly them to be true for each of us:
“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.”