- “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count His sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)
- “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Romans 6:6)
- “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)
We don’t have a record of the day after Jesus’ death in Scripture. But the silence is not empty. It’s not hard to imagine what the first disciples might have been experiencing that day. After watching their Lord and Teacher brutally executed and buried, the Sabbath could not have felt the same as usual. Grief, confusion, fear, and doubt would all seem reasonable responses. But we have the rest of the story they didn’t have yet. Regardless of the busyness of this past week and the preparations we may have for tomorrow’s triumphant celebration, take time to listen to the silence. What is the meaning of all that happened? Our sin is forgiven, life replaces death, the curse replaced with blessing, debt is cancelled, and our escape from captivity to sin is secured. All this completed while we were still God’s enemies, so much more now can we draw near to God as friends! So much to reflect on, give thanks for, rejoice in. Reflect, give thanks, rejoice!
- “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
- “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” (Ephesians 2:1)
- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
- “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
“It is finished.” Every word spoken by Jesus on this earth was intentional and significant, but these words resound distinctly triumphant through history, and will for all time. Unlike the repeated sacrifices of the priests, Jesus’ work on the cross was effective, never to be repeated. There is no longer any debt owed for those that believe – it is cancelled! Life exchanged for life, death conquered. Forgiveness is guaranteed and complete. He did not leave us to guess or wonder but called out the decree for all to hear. The cost was high, but it has been paid completely by the perfect Lamb!
- “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” (Leviticus 16:15-16)
- “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer,
sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:13-14,22)
- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Ephesians 1:7)
Forgiveness is messy. It’s not easy and it is going to cost something. The Old Testament priests worked, covered in the blood of animals, day after day to purify the Israelites. That was the only means of forgiveness available for them, but forgiveness based on the blood of animals only lasted until the next sin. Human guilt cannot just be covered over that easily, but must be erased by human blood. Hallelujah that our God had a plan! We can be forgiven, for every sin, permanently! Scourging, thorns, nails, He gave His blood to redeem us. It takes perfect blood of the perfect man to not just cover but remove our guilt. It is doubtful the Roman soldiers understood the true significance of their work, but Jesus did, and through Him we have true forgiveness.
- “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth.” (Isaiah 24:5-6a)
- “None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. For all have sinned. The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:10b-12, 23, 6:23)
- “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written,“Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
- “But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Our grateful response to Christ’s love in sacrificing Himself to save us is minimized without remembering that it is our sins that required it. We aren’t simply being held captive against our will like the princess locked in a tower waiting to be rescued by her hero. True, we are cursed and held captive, but we have chosen it. Scripture leaves no room to think that we are innocent or could escape on our own. We rebel and continually choose to rebel. We are wretched sinners. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, or Ephesians 4:17-31 if you are unsure.) God’s holiness cannot allow any sin to go unpunished, it will not be overlooked. Our hero didn’t just ride in and shoot the enemy from a distance. He traded places with us in our captivity, submitting Himself to the weight and punishment of each and every evil act, sinful thought, harsh word, and selfish motive that we have. The brutality of crucifixion shows us the exorbitant cost of our sin, and the extravagant love of our Savior.
- “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:11-18)
- “Greater love have no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Jesus’ prayer in the garden makes it clear that He was determined to complete the will of His Father. But His words to His disciples make it evident that the cross was His will also. He was not coerced or reluctant to take the cross. In the account of His arrest in John 18, Jesus seems to be the one initiating the process as He steps out first to ask the crowd who they are seeking and boldly states, “I am He” twice, almost as if He must convince the soldiers to do what they came to do. It is His choice to give Himself into their hands. Even knowing what was to come, there is absolutely no hint of hesitation or second thoughts. He explained to His disciples why He would do this beforehand: love for His friends. Jesus does not need us, He loves us. Remembering the chasm between our absolutely holy God and wretchedly sinful man, it is unfathomable that He would choose abasement and suffer a torturous, humiliating death for us. He is the Good Shepherd, modeling the greatest love.
- “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
- “…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts2:23)
- “Then He took the twelve aside and said to them,“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him.” (Luke 18:31-33a)
Jesus’ march to the cross did not begin at this Passover, and not even in the Garden of Eden, but infinite millennia before. But why? A.W. Pink says of God: “During a past eternity, God was alone: self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied; in need of nothing.” Why would a completely holy, perfectly satisfied God design an atrocity like the cross to come to man’s rescue? The plan formed by God in eternity past to redeem sinful people to populate His Son’s kingdom is difficult for finite, incomplete, imperfect, time-bound minds to grasp. Even more incomprehensible is that such sinful creatures could receive eternity because of the Father’s love for the Son. But as the eternal plan unfolded within the constraints of time, we see our Savior devoted to do His Father’s will and rescue His inheritance.
Easter is my favorite holy day. I love Christmas, and the mindfulness of all that God had planned from eternity past, prophesied for centuries, God Himself actually coming into this earthly realm in the body of an infant is more than I can comprehend. But Christmas without Easter is not much of a story. Meditating on the events of the Passion Week and Resurrection always takes my soul to the awareness of my own sin, the amazement at God’s outpouring of love, and then total exhilaration at the truth of what was accomplished in the death and resurrection. Hope, amazing and unbounded, fills me when I think of the empty tomb!
Alas, like so many people, I frequently find myself in the regular hum of daily life, wanting to know Him better, and finding instead that I have spent the day on my to-do list or the urgent instead of the important. So for me, Passion Week is a wonderful time to intentionally slow down and remind my soul of what it took to provide my salvation, as well as what bedrock truths are mine to claim in Jesus’ resurrection.
I have actually been on a Passion walk since February, following the Lenten calendar, though not all the Lenten traditions. It has been a very meaningful time of letting go of certain unnecessary things in my life – like regret, apathy, and spiritual self-protection – to grasp hold of the eternally valuable Jesus Christ Himself. If you are not familiar with the book “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chloe I highly recommend it! Information is on Amazon here: 40 Days of Decrease
However, what I would like to post here for the next 6 days are actually Passion Week thoughts I wrote a couple of years ago. So beginning Monday, I’ll offer these daily meditations in hope that you will allow time for each one to draw you to worship the Savior in prayer and praise, and help prepare you to remember and celebrate the great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ this Easter.
When “Pirates of the Caribbean” came out years ago we watched it with our kids. I wasn’t initially enamored with the character Johnny Depp played – the notorious “Captain Jack Sparrow” – but eventually could enjoy parts of the film.
One scene in particular must have struck a chord for our kids. Two misfit pirates were arguing, or explaining something to another pirate. Of course they each want to be the hero of their tale, so it begins with one recounting and the other interrupting frequently. Finally, the more dominant one silences the other pirate with the words, “I’m telling the story!” I guess in a home with 5 children they all, ok even my husband and I, felt like there were times we could not get a whole sentence out before someone interrupted. So, for quite some time this phrase was hollered out in desperation to be heard. And usually that line would allow the speaker to at least finish a sentence.
Recently, I have begun reading a book highly recommended to me. “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. While I do believe she could have made her points just as well without some of the street language she uses, it is a well-researched and well-written piece on human nature. She has spent years researching, interviewing, and compiling information on what makes people get up and keep going after failure. Or why they don’t. I’m only a few chapters in, but there are so many things relevant to my journey I’ve already learned a lot.
This is not a Christian book, although the author does reference faith and spirituality at times. But for those of us who struggle with a less than perfect background, living with the cloud of misplaced shame or guilt, her words are especially powerful and hopeful. The concepts she addresses are things my therapist has actually been helping me learn also. One of the biggest ideas for me has to do with owning your story.
For years I did not want to own my story, and kept it safely and deeply buried. I don’t plan to go into here all the reasons that does not work out very well. The point Brene makes is that unless we own our story, in a sense we are trapped in it. That is very true. But she added another layer.“When we own our own stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in the stories other people are telling.”
What does that mean? I think it means we do what we think is expected, or what we’ve come to believe about ourselves based on all the things in our past, good and bad. If we try to gloss over, or ignore the not so pretty parts, then we can’t really respond in reality. Which means we are probably not going to respond in love.
I would add one thing that Ms. Brown doesn’t mention. Ultimately, it’s not even our story. It’s God’s story, and we just get to be in it. It’s all grace! He even writes what we think of as the “ugly parts” not to hurt us, but for us! He is always a good Father, and Romans 8:28 is true. He is writing the story, for our good and His glory, to make us like His Son. If we try to rewrite or ignore part of it to suit us, we can miss out on seeing how He will work all things together for good.
Holidays can be hard. God used this verse to minister to me in a special way a few years ago.
Life was dark. I was about to be extinguished. People who said they were helping just heaped more condemnation. I tried harder, it got worse. The future seemed dismal. If they gave up on me, would God?
I love reading the book of Isaiah. During that dark time, this verse stood out like a beacon to me. It’s talking about Jesus, what He would do when he comes. It’s a great passage for Advent.
In reality, my faith is weak. It is only His grace that keeps me. What a promise that at our weakest He won’t stomp on us! I’ve found this to be so true time & time again. People can become frustrated with our weaknesses, turn on us, blame us for them, give up on us. Jesus never will!
He is compassion embodied, patience and love unending. He is hope. He is strengthen when I’m weak. He fans the flame of faintly burning wicks. He took death so He can give life.
Joy to the world, the LORD is come!