Good Friday Reflection: This Amazing Love
The Passover was a celebration of the way through which God broke into the illegitimate rulership of Egypt. God, the Father, rescued and released His people, restoring them to their true position in His house. In order for this to happen, sin had to be dealt with and ultimately, this was going to be dealt with by God’s One and only Son. In the Passover in Egypt, the only reason Israel was safe was because of the blood of the lamb which pointed to God’s provision and ultimately to the Messiah - the true Lamb of God.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' John 1:29-30
In Egypt, God showed His power through His mastery over the elements as well as all forms of demonic and military power. In Jerusalem, God showed His power in servanthood and the weakness of the flesh (Mark 10:45). As the perfect man who stood in our place (1 Cor 15:47) Jesus conquered sin, death (1 Cor 15:55-57), and all the powers of darkness (1 John 3:8). You and I need never lose a battle for all things are ours in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). We may struggle and feel as if the whole world is against us at times, but the truth remains that we are His and He has the victory (Rom 8:37-9). This is amazing love.
The Evening Before the Crucifixion - An Enemy is Healed
“So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)” John 18:3-10.
“But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.”
The religious and political powers of the day had combined in order to come against the servant-king who had shown nothing but love, grace and mercy. I wonder how Jesus must have felt as they approached Him and a disciple, He had cared for betrayed Him. The pain of desertion is sometimes more painful than physical pain, yet Jesus still reaches out to heal an enemy. When we go through hardship, we often close in on ourselves, especially if we are deserted by friends at a time of great need; but not Jesus. No matter what incredible pressures there were on His life, including looming death and judgement, Jesus remained perfectly in control of His emotions and His love was never weakened. He still reached out in love.
The Power of Rome is No Match for the Angelic Host
"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"
In the events of Genesis 19, angels dealt with a decadent Sodom and Gomorrah, whilst in Joshua 5:13-15 the commander of the Lord’s army appeared in a way which reminded Joshua of who was really in charge of all things. If God had wanted to, just one angel would have been sufficient in destroying the religious ruling class of the day and turning all Roman armies into dust; but God did not choose to do this. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16-17) and history continues to this present day because of Him. No matter what goes wrong in our lives, we are important to Him and He will never leave us or forsake us (Eph 6:10). This is amazing love.
Love: The Way Jesus Reached Out to Peter
Shortly before Jesus’ arrest He said to Peter, “I tell you Peter, before the cock crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34. This prophecy was fulfilled when Peter was spotted inside the High Priest’s courtyard (a place where Peter was not allowed to go). One of the high priest’s servants saw him and said, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26-7). This was the third time Peter had been challenged and the third time that he denied knowing Jesus.
How would you feel if a friend who had walked with you for three years suddenly deserted you? Think of the heartache and pain this would cause, for there is great pain in being let down by a close friend whom you have shown nothing but love. In a worldly sense, we probably would not have blamed Jesus had He given up on Peter from this point onwards, but thankfully God is not like us. Peter had not wanted to deny Christ but had found the strength and power of the enemy too much for him. Yes, he had made some mistakes but would probably have been just as shocked as the other disciples would have been upon hearing what he had done. God understands us. He might not agree with us all the time, but He does understand us. Jesus knew that most of the disciples were going to desert Him in His hour of need and yet instead of castigating them as many castigate others when they are facing difficulty, He continued to love them. Even before they deserted Him, Jesus had said to them, “In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). I doubt very much whether any of us would have encouraged the disciples and spoken like this in the face of looming torture, death and judgment, yet Jesus did and in Him we find great hope. Even when we get it wrong and trip and stumble and fall, He does not write us off and He never stops loving us.
After the shock of spewing out his words of denial, Peter must have felt completely different – as if he were now on the outside and no longer part of anything. He must have felt that he had crossed the line and gone way past the point of no return. Undoubtedly, his failure would have greeted him afresh each morning and with equal vigour and life in the evening when he was tired and needed sleep. He was now a ‘not-real’ disciple - a mockery and laughing stock as one who had promised to protect Jesus yet had denied even knowing Him. What sort of friend acts like that? However, God’s love is not weakened by man’s failure; what is weakened is our ability to receive that love. Jesus never stopped loving Peter and would later go on to challenge him in such a way as to bring healing and restoration to his tormented heart and mind. This is amazing love.
God Reaching Out: Pilate’s Wife has a Dream
“While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him." Matt 27:19
I wonder what Pilate’s wife would think about all the events accompanying and following the crucifixion?
Love: The Crucifixion
There is very little mention of crucifixion in ancient literature, but why? The answer to this question is, “because people who were crucified don’t really matter.” According to history, the majority of those who were crucified were foreigners, slaves who had run away, or people from the lower classes. Crucifixion was also a penalty for terrorism, political crimes and robbery. The religious leaders in Israel did not want to make a big thing of Jesus and gave Judas thirty pieces of silver (the price of a slave) to betray him.
Religion in the hands of man often judges and looks down on others. Contrastingly, in the crucifixion we see incredible love as Jesus reaches out to all people. Jesus suffered the fate of being made to appear as a nothing and a nobody, yet His crucifixion and resurrection became the most well-known story in Roman history at that time.
Acts of Love Whilst Enduring the Agony of the Cross
Taking care of Mary:
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son."
Reaching out to a thief/terrorist:
“….Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Love communicated through darkness.
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.”
This is reminiscent of the presence of God at a time when Israel was brought out of Egypt:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt — darkness that can be felt." So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”
Note also the following: -
“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was….”
“And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Then Solomon said, "The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud…” 1 Kings 8:11-12
A major point to consider at the time of crucifixion is that for the first time ever (and forever) the sacrificial system in the Temple was rendered totally useless. During the time of darkness) the priests would have found it hard, if not impossible, to perform their religious duties which were now completely unnecessary because the true Passover Lamb was already on a cross at Calvary, outside the city walls.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Cor 5:21
God wants to forgive us, God wants to make us whole, God wants to lift us out of the mud and mire and help us become the man or the woman He always intended us to be. Our work in all of this is to confess our need of His love and receive His grace and mercy.
One of the Old Testament words relating to forgiveness is ‘Sallach,’ which speaks of ‘sending away’ or ‘letting go.’ The word Sallach is always used in the context of what God has done. This picture behind this word is then carried through to the N.T. (aploou and charisoma) where we again see the idea of setting free and letting go. Through the work of Christ, we have been lifted out of debt; we have been cleansed, renewed, raised up and seated in heavenly realms (Eph 2:6, PS 40:2-3).
“God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Rom 3:25-26
A goat was sacrificed as part of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement and a second goat (known as the scapegoat) was then released into the wilderness (Lev 16:8ff) after the priest had confessed the sins of Israel over it. This symbolised God’s taking away of Israel’s sin. In Jesus we see God’s sin bearer - the One who carried our sin and allows us to walk in freedom.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Love: Freely given.
Jesus’ life was not taken from Him by those seeking to kill Him. Jesus’ life was given by Him in such a way that even enemies could find salvation.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”
Love: God Reveals that Death has Been Conquered.
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.”
Love: An enemy can see the truth.
“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"
It was highly unusual for the words, “Surely he was the Son of God” to come from the mouths of experienced Roman soldiers who would have been brought up to regard only one person as the son of God - the emperor.
All throughout the Roman Empire, the cross was an instrument of torture and was used as a means of keeping the population under control. Yet through Christ, this macabre instrument of death was used to reveal God’s love and power - the love and power of One who freely gave His life over to death and judgement for the sole purpose of being able to breathe life into sinners who could then become saints. Something of the power and breadth of God’s ability to reach all people is seen in a terrorist at one end of the spectrum (on a cross next to Jesus) and a trained executioner (part of the Roman death squad) at the other end, with both of them coming to recognise Jesus as the Son of God.
Love Shown to the Religious Priesthood
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matt 27:51-53
In the Old Testament, h the daily economic, political and religious life was centred on the Jerusalem Temple, yet the Temple also symbolised the centre of the cosmos as a meeting place between heaven and earth. The earthly temple was to be a place of prayer for all the nations and spoke of God’s desire to be with man (Deut 4:7; Ps 145:18, Mt 11:17). Jesus is Immanuel (God with us) and He speaks of Himself as the true Temple (John 2:19-20). It is through His sacrificial death that earth and heaven can come together.
“Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”
1 Corinthians 3:16
In all the events leading up to and including the crucifixion we see the incredible love of God – a love that is not quenched by sin and continues to reach out to us right now; be encouraged”!
Written and produced by Jem.