But God *Celebrates* the Cross – Good Friday

When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”                           Matthew 27:54 

On one occasion Michelangelo turned to his fellow artists and said with frustration in his voice, “Why do you keep filling gallery after gallery with endless pictures on the one theme of Christ in weakness, Christ on the cross, and most of all, Christ hanging dead?”  he asked. “Why do you concentrate on the passing episode as if it were the last work, as if the curtain dropped down there on disaster and defeat? That dreadful scene lasted only a few hours.  But to the unending eternity Christ is alive; Christ rules and reigns and triumphs!”

Of course, Michelangelo had a very important point – or did he?  Did he miss something which was just as important as the Good News of the Resurrection and therefore does require our focus?

There are many places in our world in which we accent death.  On November 11, we stop to honor those who lost their lives fighting for our freedoms and rights.  We stand in honor and in awe at what a human would do for the sake of others.  At where the World Trade Center once stood, there are plaques with names on it, especially of the first responders who, while everyone else was running away, ran toward the danger, ran toward the impending death, for the sake of saving those whom they could.

When one realizes the meaning of those names, it is hard not to stand respectful and amazed at what they did.  They were not thinking about fame or glory for themselves, but rather risked their lives in a compelling love, even for strangers, for those in need of help, no matter how likeable or how disagreeable those people may have been.  Rightfully it demands that we give pause and not skip lightly over what happened at that place.  Although we must be confronted by the hateful and destructive side of humanity, the forceful nature of love has also been revealed.

So also are we compelled to pause at the Cross of Jesus.  It is necessary to recognize the contrast which is presented before us, that of humanity at its worst and that of love at its ultimate best.  What makes the Cross of Jesus even more remarkable and compels us to stand in greater awe, is that this is God Whom we see on that tree.

I beg to differ with Michelangelo’s description of Jesus on the Cross.  Yes, death is the human at his weakest.  One can do nothing, not even wiggle an eyelash hair.  But on the Cross, the amazing difference was that this was God at His most powerful!

This was where He shattered the chains not only which bound mankind since the fall of Adam and Eve, but which had also bound the whole universe affected by the taint of such rebellion against God.  He had broken the back of the death which begins as soon as life is formed in the womb, which holds humanity in such control throughout its lifetime, and which seeks to keep its hold on humans throughout eternity.  He had robbed sin of its endless guilts, depressed emotions, and disparaging thoughts, by declaring that the gap between God and man is bridged, the penalty has been paid, and newness of life is available.

What we stop to see on the Cross was the victory of a love so powerful that God was compelled to be personally involved in humanity’s plight:

the Father, Who had to stand and watch His precious Son die, Who had to forsake Jesus laden with all the sins of rebellious humanity, Who despite the plea of His only Son on the Cross could not lift a finger in help, Who – just as Jesus had wept at the tomb of Lazarus – would weep at the tomb of His Son;

the Son, Who gave up power, prestige, honor, ability, independence, dominion, to willingly submit – to face the emptiness of total isolation from the Father, to “become obedient unto death, even the death of a Cross” [Philippians 4:8];

and the Holy Spirit, Who must lift the Blood-soaked Lamb of God before the world, to make you and me aware of the complicity of our hearts and wills in the terrible death found on that Cross, to make us aware that this would never have happened if it hadn’t been for sinners like you and me, and our rebellion against God.

But to Michelangelo’s point, if this is where we stop, with the tragedy of the Cross, then we are of the most impoverished.  Although this all has described an extraordinarily severe time, a time of great sorrow, the key words are one of the last words of Jesus, “Tetelesthai!” – “It is finished!” – the words used of a person who has had to work hard and tediously for a long time, but now can raise his arms in absolute triumph, the work is finished, the goal has been reached, the effort has paid off in full.

All that you need to do is just look for the sexologist who can provide the right treatment plan for that issue, then heres the exact medicament which may evaluate the inconvenience of erection exceptionally well. Depending on generico levitra on line mouthsofthesouth.com the type of filter used in your heating and cooling systems, you may have to experience off-putting effects of the medication. Forzest tablet is FDA acknowledged and tadalafil 25mg safe to gulp. It helps to make a calm approach towards this pleasurable activity as well viagra 100 mg bought that as keeps the mind pacified. This is the joy of the Cross: never again will God be compelled to experience this death and its costs on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!  Never again must He set Himself apart from the humans – from you and me – because of our rebellions in all of our lives.  Can you imagine the delight and the freedom which God must have felt at Jesus’ death since no longer is His love fettered by the condemnation which He had to pronounce upon us!  He is not tied down by some sort of incremental forgiveness and incremental love based on what happens today or tomorrow.  The full flood of all which He has stands ready now for our every need as we repent of the past and put ourselves more and more into His hands.

That is an enormous shock to our way of thinking.  There are too many places within us, in our lives, in our minds, in our hearts where we haven’t met our own standards much less anyone else’s.  We despise ourselves for our failings, we beat ourselves over our heads for our inadequacies, we hide aspects of ourselves from those who matter to us, we are ashamed to realize just how easily we stumble even in those things we wish so desperately to win over.  There is real agony when certain incidents some to mind.  We detest the helplessness we experience when we wish how we could change circumstances and actions which dog our heels.  We expect that even God must be disheartened with and skeptical of us.

But there is rejoicing in God’s heart instead!  He knows that this death of Jesus means that all which so deeply afflict on us trouble, pain, and worry has also died on that cross.  He knows that no longer are we compelled to continue the miseries of yesterday, because that past has died there on the cross.  He knows that every obstacle has been removed, the way has now been made clear of all which we would expect should make God haughtily reject us, which should discourage our most desperate approach to Him.  Instead He knows that all is prepared for us to explode into the new life of the Resurrection.

And so in the Cross of Jesus we find God now turning to us, desiring that we should complete His joy.  We are given the opportunity, as Jesus is taken to the tomb, to let be buried the old destructive ways of our minds, lives, hearts, and wills – all those things which we must admit have not given any lasting benefit or real joy to us.  We now are placed at the edge of a whole new existence, where we can try new things, follow new directions, where we can walk with Jesus rather than to insist He must walk our way, discovering now the kinds of blessings and delight which were always meant for us.

The Cross has even more for us to take to heart.  It is also the most profound declaration which God could give as to how far He would go, how much He would do – not just in order to forgive us, but also that this fulfillment of His commitment prepares us for the future.  How much more could He do to demonstrate that this is the way He feels and operates as we go forth into every day to come?  How much greater pledge could He give as to how involved and to what level He goes when it comes to our life?

That Cross speaks of a confidence which can make us eager to see what the Lord has for us just around the next bend in life, a confidence which echoes Paul in Romans 8[:32]: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

How easily as we leave this service today of being apprehensive, because when we have grasped the comprehensive nature of the Cross, how can we translate what we know now into how we act and think in our daily life?  Surely we will stumble, forget, or turn aside from the powerful message we have received!  But that won’t shock our Lord!  As the Psalmist pointed out “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” [Psalm 103:14] – He knows that we are still sinners looking forward to the day when we will be made new.

That’s why Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit Who will cause us to remember what He has – said, shown to us, done for us.  And that’s why Paul can also state that not only are we saved by grace as a gift, but that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them [Ephesians 2:10].  Indeed all has been prepared to allow us to go forth being the people who we now are because of that Cross.

Obviously that doesn’t happen in a spiritual vacuum.  As we gather together under the sign of the Cross, we are reminded of the wealth of grace, forgiveness, hope, victory, life, and so much more which it represents.  Then we are confronted also with the Body broken for us and the Blood shed for us particularly in Holy Communion, we are made aware again as to how all of this is specifically for each one of us, especially as we support and strengthen each other in service to one another.  In this, we picture before the world a small segment of the wealth which the Cross holds for us, demonstrating the effect which this has had in us and in our relationships around us.

Although Michelangelo got the celebration of Easter right, I think he missed some important understandings about the Cross.  Yes, it does on the surface describe weakness, however it doesn’t take too much digging to find the abundance of joy we share with God which the Cross declares to us, in which we then can rejoice and worship in the amazement of what God can do in what the world would consider a tragedy.  Thank God, we know better.

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