Good Friday

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in The Truth | One Comment
Good Friday

It’s hard to know exactly where to start this.  It’s hard because it is a goal of mine to keep my posts as short as possible.  This is a story that is hard to condense, but I will try.

I have come to believe that I have believed many subtle errors about God.  Subtle.  Subtle yet profound.

Here is a familiar gospel (the story of Jesus).

In the beginning God created man in his image and likeness.  He placed him in garden and desired to have fellowship with him. Man sinned. Because God is so holy, he cannot look on sin.  God must look away from sinful man. Now there is a breach between God and man. But God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son into the world to be our substitute. And Jesus lived life faithfully, fulfilling the will of God. But in the end Jesus is crucified, and Jesus begins to bear the wrath of God upon sin, and in the defining moment, Jesus bears our sin.  And God, who cannot look upon sin because he is too holy to do so, turns away from his son, and his son, bearing our sin, pays the price, and he dies.  And he is raised again on the third day.

For those who believe this, we are forgiven of our sins for the sake of Jesus.  So we are spared from God’s white hot wrath because of Jesus.

God’s disposition towards sinners is one of wrath, but for the sake of Jesus, we are forgiven if we believe.  If we do not believe this then we remain subject to the wrath of God, and in the end we are eternally separated and abandoned to the wrath of God.1

I grew up with this gospel, implicit and explicit.

Here is another gospel.  This is actually an older gospel.

In the beginning God created man in his image and likeness and placed him in the garden. In the garden man sinned and turned away from God.  As a result man became subject to futility and death. So the great problem that the gospel addresses is not primarily the problem of legal guilt, but of the problem of death.  But God so loves humanity that he does not want humanity to be subject to futility and death, so God comes to us and joins us in our humanity, in our predicament of futility and death.1

You may be familiar with some of these stories.

There is a woman with a very shady past.  She is from a people group that was looked down on and discriminated against.   She is subject to futility and death.  God (Jesus) comes to her while she is drawing water from the well and tells her, “I’m what you’ve been looking for all along.  I will love you unconditionally, I will love you faithfully, I will give you the water of life.”

There is a chief tax collector, viewed by his own people as a traitor, wealthy and powerful, but has few real friends.  Outcast, ostracized.  God comes in and says, “I want to have lunch with you today.  I know no one else wants to eat with you, but I want to eat with you.  I will come and sit in your house,” And as they sat together sharing a meal God (Jesus) says, “today salvation has come to this house, for he, too, is a son of Abraham.”

A woman is caught in adultery by the religious police. They bring her and hurl her into the presence of God (Jesus) and say, “The Bible says to stone such women.  What do you say?”  And God (Jesus) says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The spell is broken, and the religious police depart, and God says, “Where are your accusers now? Did no one condemn you?” And she says, “No one, sir.” And he says, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”

Legion is a man regarded as a monster; driven out, cries out day and night.  Everyone says, “Don’t go through that graveyard.  There is a monster living in there.”  But God (Jesus) goes.  And he says to the man, “I don’t reject you.  I’m not afraid of you.  I come to set you free!”

There is a paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof by his friends.  God (Jesus) sees the man; he doesn’t attribute what has happened to the man as the justice of God, the punishment he deserved.  He simply says, “Your sins have been forgiven you.” People say, “How can his sins be forgiven?” And God (Jesus) says, “And also I want to say to you, take up your bed and walk!”

When the human race, driven by violence, takes God and crucifies him, condemns him, spits upon him, and executes him, God says, “I forgive you.” And when man experiences the final dissolution, falls away into death, swallowed up by the grave, so that man is cut off from life and cut off from God, threatening to make the whole of life without meaning – because in the end, it’s always about death – the unthinkable happens.  God says, “Though you make your bed in Sheol, I am there.”  And God himself joins us in death.  God in his wild pursuit of man is so committed to go where ever we go, that he follows us all the way down into death because love is greater than the grave.

But the word of God is not yet done speaking.  The word of God has something else to say, and the word of God in death says, “I am he that lives and was dead.  Behold! I am alive for evermore, amen!  I have the keys of death and hell. I am the resurrection and the life. All who are in the grave shall hear the voice of the son of man, and they shall come forth.”  And now there is no place in all of creation where the love of God is not.

God only has one disposition toward us, and that is love!  And how do I know that?  Because I look at Jesus, and God is like Jesus.  God has always been like Jesus.  There has never been a time when God wasn’t like Jesus.  We didn’t always know this, but now we do.

God does not turn away from us because we are sinful.  God has always been like Jesus.  There has never been a time when God wasn’t like Jesus.  We didn’t always know this, but now we do.

When do you ever see Jesus saying, “You are so sinful that I cannot look upon you.”?  The Pharisees [religious leaders] do that.  God is not like the Pharisees.  God is not revealed to us in the Pharisees.  God has always been like Jesus.  There has never been a time when God wasn’t like Jesus.  We didn’t always know this, but now we do.1

Subtle.  Subtle yet so very profound.

There is another subtle, yet profound misunderstanding that, I believe, prevents many people from seeing the truth.  And since it is Good Friday, it’s a great time to look at this.

Who killed Jesus?  Was it God who demanded the sacrificial death of his son?  Is God that raging father who extracts his revenge on his own son?  Is Jesus the older brother who steps between us and The Father to take all that rage to protect us?  That’s a horrible picture of God, yet it is one that is taught way too often.  It will be preached in many, many churches this Sunday all over the world.

To suggest God tortured and murdered his Son is to malign the character of God. The sacrificial killing of Jesus is not what God required; it’s what we required.  God had already said through the prophet Hosea and Jesus repeatedly quoted, “thus saith The Lord, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'” God requires mercy not scapegoating, not sacrifice.2

The fall of mankind produced some nasty repercussions.   (An aside – one could reasonably argue that those repercussions were, again, not God’s wrath on mankind – not God saying, “Because of your disobedience, I am cursing you and all the generations following you.”  Perhaps a better way to look at that is God saying, “Because of your disobedience, you have put things in motion that you and all the generations following you will have to live with.” )  It produced a system of blame (human religion) and violence (politics/government).  On Good Friday, those two systems came together and put God on trial.  Those two systems condemned God to death.  Don’t miss this.  You and I and everyone who has ever lived are a part of those two systems, willingly… and sometimes unwillingly… but we are them.  We put God on trial.  We condemned God to death.  We demanded a scapegoat for our sins because we have always been unwilling to admit to them.  We’d rather blame God for them.

So we let God take the blame for them.

On the cross.

We.

Tortured.

And.

Murdered.

God.

And his response to that?

He.

Forgave.

Us.

Everyone of us.

Jesus did not appease God in his death, Jesus revealed God in his death.

God only has one disposition toward us, and that is love!  And how do I know that?  Because I look at Jesus, and God is like Jesus.  God has always been like Jesus.  There has never been a time when God wasn’t like Jesus.  We didn’t always know this, but now we do.

One last thing.  When Jesus ascended to The Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to us.  The Holy Spirit has one job;

to preach one sermon; inside you; every single moment of every single day… to preach to the deepest regions of your unbelief three words:

“It is finished.  It is finished.  It is finished.”

“You’re mine. You’re mine. You’re mine.”3

You are loved.  You are loved.  You are loved.

 


 

Disclosures:

I am not a lettered theologian.  I have not had any formal theological training.  However, Webster defines theology as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.”  In that context, almost all of us are theologians; even atheists.  We are all capable of participating in the discussion.

This piece uses quotes from podcasts from pastors I listen to regularly.  They have all influenced my thoughts and impacted my understanding, however, I do not speak for them; I do not represent them in any way.


 

Footnotes:

1 Brian Zahnd, A Beautiful Gospel (podcast)

2 Brian Zahnd, Who Killed Jesus (podcast)

3 Tullian Tchividjian, Romans | Part 11 (podcast)

1 Comment

  1. Jeannette
    April 18, 2014

    Theology – a study of God. Well stated Elizabeth. God so loved. . . . and yet man continually thinks he has to prove himself and and do works himself to get God’s love. It’s free!! Forgiveness is free – it merely requires humility, sorrow for sin, repentance – not to continually live a life of sin. . . . and yet man thinks he has to ‘work’ for it. Salvation is a free gift. We do ‘works’ or things for Jesus because of what He has done for us – not to gain approval of God. Something that is a gift – something that we didn’t deserve, but Jesus in love paid the price for the wrath of God.for us. There is no ‘catch’ – it’s free because of God’s great love, mercy, and grace. HALLELUJAH!!!!!!

    Thank you again for sharing!

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Jeannette

Cancel Reply