The meal was served last night. We received what Jesus offered: His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And we left in silence. The uncertainty of the night, Jesus saying that one of us would betray Him, and then…
…and it was night
Our problems with death
Death—something that most of us in the North American culture struggle with. On the one hand, we are generally fearful of death, especially our own. It might be uncertainty about anything beyond this life. Or the manner of death. Or the timing of death. “I don’t want to miss my daughter’s wedding.”
On the other hand, we are fascinated by death. The popularity in movies, TV shows, and even live videos of death attest to our interest. We don’t want to see it—but we cannot not look.
Worse is our delusions about death. We think if we don’t talk about it, it won’t bother us. If we ignore it, it will not happen. We also want to sit in judgment or even rush to judgment: “John surely deserved to die.” “Sally didn’t deserve to die.”
Perhaps the worst delusion is that we try to embrace death as our “friend.” “It is natural” we hear people say. But is death our friend?
Friend or Foe?
Death is not a friend —not in any way. From the very beginning, death was contrary to God’s will, a result of the lie of Satan. Paul corrects our fuzzy notions about death. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Have you heard how “peaceful” death can be? In some cases that is true. But how often have we faced the death of someone, and it was not in any way peaceful? We might be tempted to say “Where is God in this?” The key is that God is right there, even when the manner of death seems cruel, ugly, horrible, revolting. God’s promises are true, and valid, even if our ears and eyes deceive us. If anything, Good Friday emphasizes that point. Where was God on Good Friday? Right there on the cross, dying for us.
How do we as Christians respond to death? This day, called Good Friday, we find our answers, sometimes rather unexpectedly. On this particular day, we come face-to-face with death of an innocent person, Jesus Christ. We see the fear, fascination, and delusions about death and how they are shattered. And then we can see death—and life—more clearly.
Tonight we gather once more (7 PM) to stand near the cross, to witness what this Innocent Man suffered. We want to shout, “It’s not fair!” Our judgment is not rushed in this case; it really wasn’t fair — and that is a good thing it wasn’t fair. If God were fair, we would die “forsaken by God.”
If anyone’s death deserved the evaluation “It’s not fair!” it is Jesus’ death. The rush to judgment was so mob-driven, that even the Roman governor, Pilate, could not find anything deserving of His death. And yet Jesus was crucified like a criminal.
“Give us Barabbas!” They would rather that a first century murderer be released (“The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection.” Mark 15:7) than seeing true justice being served by letting the innocent one go free.
Many in the crowds mocked Him, saying “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” (Mark 15:32). He was just another man in a long line of men who died by crucifixion. “What’s so different about him?”
But behind all that unfairness of the crowds, the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, and Jesus’ crucifixion, we read something surprising in Isaiah:
“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10).
The Father intended for Jesus to be treated unfairly, to be treated as a criminal, and to die unjustly. But in that death, we see that Jesus suffered for us. It was our sins that nailed Him there. He took all of this —for us. And justice prevails!
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him. (Isaiah 53:5)
There is peace because of His death. Not that our death is necessarily peaceful but once it is accomplished then “It is finished,” and we enter into God’s peace as he planned life to be.
That “unfairness” changes everything. Consider these:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Come and worship, reflect, and see the cost of our salvation. And rejoice that the unfairness of everything that happened to Jesus means the “unfair” verdict of “Forgiven and righteous” for us. And that’s final!