Monday, March 25, 2013

Good Observance of Good Friday - The Passion of the Christ

As H. Richard Niebuhr wrote 75 years ago, we are so inclined to believe that “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Kingdom of God in America [1937], p. 193. (I encourage you to take a minute to unpack that very dense sentence.)

For decades I labored under a similar miscomprehension: "Okay. So Christ died on the cross for me. Nice. But he is God, so just how painful could it have been?" Well, Scripture teaches us that it was incomprehensibly horrible. We cannot imagine the betrayal, the humiliation, the physical pain, the loneliness and total abandonment. But in my effort to try to imagine, I find it helpful to observe Good Friday (March 29, 2013) by re-watching The Passion of The Christ, a profound, intense way to pause on Good Friday and reflect upon Christ's work and suffering on the cross.

So was Christ's death on the Cross really necessary?!? Could God not have accomplished the same result by some other means? Perhaps he could have, but he didn't. At the great risk of oversimplification, allow me to summarize the reason for Christ on the Cross:

God is perfectly holy and righteous.

God is also a perfectly just Judge, and perfect justice cannot ignore any wrongs.

God also loves us, and desires to enjoy intimate fellowship with us, which reveals much about God, and little about me.

For I am not holy or righteous, and my sin separates me from such fellowship with a loving and/but just God,... unless the price is paid for my sins.

Among my sins is my failure to acknowledge and appreciate God's love for me, and what he has done for me. The Passion of The Christ forces me to face into and reflect upon how great is that love and how high was the price,... and how shall I respond.

It was once explained to me this way: I should imagine being brought before the Court to face the undeniable charges for my many offenses (sins). An omniscient, perfectly just Judge, who cannot compromise his perfect justice, considered my offenses and pronounced the only appropriate sentence: "Death." But the Judge called me "son," and although the just sentence had to be imposed, the Judge stood, stepped down from his Bench, removed his robe, and received his just sentence in my stead. Perfect justice was preserved; perfect love was demonstrated; that I may be redeemed, set free, and be forever transformed by such perfect love.

This Friday is Good Friday, and I encourage you to join me in watching The Passion of The Christ.

For God so loved the World...