April 3, 2015
His last words are: It is finished!
He came among us to do something and now it is done.
What is it that he has done?
The answer that comes most readily to our lips is: he has saved us.
But what we may be less clear on is from what or from whom has he saved us?
For many of us lurking in our unconscious minds is the idea that Jesus saved us from God. God knows everything we’ve ever done and thought, all our sins and weaknesses, and they do not match up to God’s standards. We know Saint Paul is right when he says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.
You remember the story told about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: he sent an anonymous telegram to five Christian gentlemen living in London that read: ‘All is discovered; flee at once”. As the story goes one left the country and was never heard of again.
We know God knows the truth about us and we think that God is not happy with us.
Furthermore there is all that talk in the Old Testament and some in the New about the wrath of God and it is easy for us to imagine such a god who would come down like a ton of bricks on us for what we’ve done.
Some of us had parents and teachers, and maybe even nuns and priests, just like that. Sometimes we’re like that with others.
There is the fear that in spite of all we hear about the love of God that there is a dark side of God that is angry and the only thing that will turn God around is for this anger to be vented on someone.
This, some preachers have told us, is where Jesus comes in: he volunteers to let God take out his anger on him so God can start loving us again.
This is a well-worn story but it isn’t Biblical and most certainly isn’t good news—because it means there is a dark side to God that at any moment may turn on us again!
Our fallen humanity believes God is angry and vindictive like we are and therefore we are robbed of any awareness of that love and what life must be like back in the Father’s mansion. Like Adam and Eve we hide from God.
Then with sin death enters the equation and we live in such fear of death we lose any felt connection to the peace of God.
We desperately need to be saved so the Father sends the Son to take on our fallen humanity and liberate us from it. It’s the glorious exchange that Martin Luther talks about: we are the poor prostitute that is married to the King. The King takes on our poverty, sin, and shame and we take on the King’s wealth, faithfulness, and glory.
The good news that is crystal clear in John’s gospel is that it is the love of the Triune God that sends the Word made flesh to us. And that the Father and Jesus are working together at every moment: As Jesus says, “everything the Father has said to me I say to you” and “I do nothing on my own but only what the Father has told me to do.” Father Son and Spirit are together in this work of salvation.
And what are Father Son and Spirit trying to accomplish? They are working to remove all the barriers that keep humanity, keep you and me, from knowing and enjoying the love and fellowship of God and thus fulfilling our creation as God’s adopted daughters and sons.
From the beginning God has wanted us to share the divine mutual indwelling. Yet God knows we are trapped by sinful existence and cannot help ourselves. We really can’t lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
Hebrews 2 puts it this way:
4 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”
The early church Greek Church Father, Athanasius put it this way: “the human race was on the road to ruin and wasting out of existence and the work of God was being undone….What then was God, being Good, to do?”
He said it was unworthy of the goodness of God that the creature made by him should be brought to nothing through the deceit wrought upon us by the devil and that it was supremely unfitting that the work of God in humankind should disappear…Was God to let corruption and death have their way with them? See Baxter Krueger’s God is for us
The key for Athanasius is the goodness of God. As Baxter Krueger paraphrases,” Was God to turn his back and walk away? Was he to be indifferent? Could he be?…the only answer is “of course not!”.
Athanasius says: It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave humanity to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of God’s self.”
Krueger: “The gospel is not the news that in dying Jesus dealt with the dark side of God for us. Neither is it the news that in dying Jesus revealed a generic love of God for us. The gospel is the news that there is no dark side of God and that there is no merely generic love of God. It is the news that while we were inescapably plunged into dreadful darkness, the Father, in his all-out commitment to us, sent His Son to oppose and remove that darkness at all costs.” Ibid, Location 424 Kindle edition
That is the work Jesus finishes on the cross. He starts that work when he takes the flesh of the Virgin Mary and now he descends into the absolute depths of that which is killing us and killing our joy, takes it on himself: for us, without us.
Second Isaiah saw this:
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
On the cross we see the One True God in Jesus Christ taking our fallen humanity and nailing it to the cross in his flesh….to save us from ourselves. And because this work is finished we call this day Good Friday!