April 18, 2014 Good Friday Meditation
We wish the story did not have to turn out like this.
We wish there was another way.
There is a question that continually pops up this time of year is, “Why did Jesus have to die, and if he did, why in such a gruesome and violent death?
It is hard to grasp the thought in our minds that the very Son of God had to actually die to appease God, the Heavenly Father.
We say, “Why?”
Why do we call this day, “Good Friday?” For this day ends in a death and brings us into a time filled no hope, no joy, no peace, no light, no love.
That is what a world full of sin and death does to a soul and a world. It destroys hope. It robs us of joy. It eliminates peace. It conquers love, and brings death instead of life.
Who will save us from this death sentence on our life?
We all have to come to the cross…You cannot truly celebrate the Joy and Promise of Easter until you have fully recognized your place at the cross.
“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).
The scene is different today than that time at Golgotha some 2,000 years ago.
The people have all changed.
But the actions of people are still the same.
There are still those who profess Jesus in name but are nowhere to be found this night fleeing to tasks and activities that keeps them away from having to confront their own sinfulness and lack of relationship with the Lord so they don’t look and gather, but turn and run.
There are those who still mock Jesus today believing the lie that man has all the tools he needs to save himself. “Don’t need you, Lord. I am doing fine, over here, thank you.”
Then there are those believers who watch from a distance but when confronted of their allegiance to Jesus they deny they ever knew him or believed in him or followed him. “I don’t know him.” “ I never followed the man.” “I don’t believe him.”
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). A night like this brings out a wide range of human emotions and they are not all good and positive.
Yet in all of this there was the One who was judged and condemned and nailed to a cross and spat and ridiculed and mocked and beaten, but had no words of hate, rebuke, judgment, but words of love and forgiveness and hope.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t’ know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24).
Jesus replied, “I promise you that today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Jesus said, “It is finished, “ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).
And we hear the words of the criminal to the other criminal as they were to the left and right of Jesus, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41).
We should be up there between the two criminals. We should be the one’s beaten, mocked, ridiculed, spat upon, judged, and condemned.
“Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
It is not easy to come to the cross at Calvary and witness such a display of love for us to cover our sin, to cover our iniquities, to cover our human failings.
Yet Easter is empty if you do not understand the significance of this day. And until you do, Easter is just another day filled with no special meaning or purpose for your life or the life of others. We can only call this day “Good” when we understand what is being transpired here on that cross for all of eternity.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Grace and Peace,
“Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth, Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!” (Hark! the Herald Angles Sing, by Charles Wesley). In three short verses, Charles Wesley gives us a vivid description of the Incarnation of the divine and the wonders of his birth for all humanity and what our rightful response should be upon receiving such good news, “of the new-born King.”
But lest I fall short of my desire in this letter, I can go to many more carols that announce loud and clear that we should be in an attitude of joyful worship and humble adoration, “O Come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” (O Come, All Ye Faithful). This is the most joyous time of the year because of what happened that night in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing” (Joy to the World).
The carols call us to worship him for that is what happened on the night of the Savior’s birth; it was a night of worship. The shepherds came to bow and worship him. The angels worship him in the heavens and later Wise Men came “and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11).
The proper response has not changed we are still called to fall down and worship the new-born King! In the midst of the hustle and bustle have you took time to worship the Lord this Advent season? Lay aside all the baggage of the season and find space and time to be in worship with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
The reality is that on December 26, the world will move on to prepare for New Years Day, but for us, we still have the wonderful opportunity and privilege and calling to be vessels of worship throughout the coming New Year and seek to proclaim the message, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
May you all have a Christ-Filled Christmas!
Rev. Eric Jensen
I was moved last week watching Michelle Knight stand up in court and start the process of taking her life back. The words of power and forgiveness and hope that she spoke filled the courtroom that day. I was moved to tears to see her stand up to the man that took eleven years of her life and claim her life back from the demons of the past.
Witnessing redemption and hearing someone proclaim that they are free is a powerful thing to see and feel. Don’t we love to hear when others proclaim victory over habits, addictions and other obstacles of life?
“I have lost 60 pounds!”
“I have been sober for 6 months!”
“Smoke-free for a year!”
“I passed the exam for my _________license!”
“The surgery was a success!”
“No drugs in my system for three months!”
I believe God rejoices at these announcements of victory and celebration of the dedication and hard-work, perseverance and commitment that is necessary for these victories to be achieved. But they do not happen alone. Each person in the above statements would have a list of people to thank for encouragement and support and love and direction to help them achieve their goals.,
God hates anything that holds us in bondage and takes away the freedom that is offered us through His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s desire is for us to experience freedom and abundant life in and through His Son.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NRSV).
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSV).
God loves to rescue us from the things in this world that try to hold us captive. God loves to hear the cry of the “Redeemed!” In fact, Scripture states that, “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 NRSV).
I pray that you may be one of those who can stand and say, “I am Redeemed! I have been set free!”
May the Joy and Freedom of the Lord be your hearts song and strength!
Can we even begin to imagine what the 3 woman (that were held in captivity in a run-down house in Cleveland, Ohio) were feeling that moment they found freedom after 10 plus years of living in bondage and fear to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse?
My mind cannot wrap around the thought of what it would be like to be a made a prisoner at the hand’s of another for ten plus years. Did they have moments where they found some peace, some humor, some strength and hope? I hope so. My prayers are with these women as they begin the long road of healing and finding renewal of their life once again.
Imagine living for ten years and finding very little hope that things would change anytime soon. There are a lot of people walking the streets, living in our neighborhood, working in our office, or even sitting next to us in church that ask every day, are things ever going to change for my life? Is there ever going to be a day that I feel that I have broken free from the chains of bondage in my life?
The answer from scripture is a resounding “Yes!”
Yes, there is freedom from the bondage of sins and the regrets of yesterday found in the Lord Jesus Christ.
After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were still lurking behind locked doors and trying to digest all of what had occurred with the death and resurrection of Jesus along with feelings of their betrayal and rejection, when all of a sudden “there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:2-4 NRSV).
The Holy Spirit awakened to new life a group of men and women that prior to this were unsure and afraid of what might happen to them, and after the arrival of the Holy Spirit, there was no longer fear but a burning passion and desire to spread the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the world. These disciples were transformed and they transformed the world as they brought into the world the church of Jesus Christ, the active Body-of-Christ living in the world to share the love and grace of God.
May these words from the prophet Isaiah echo our call out in the world to free others from the bondages of the world. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring the good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NRSV).
Christ is All,
Simon Peter showed up at Calvary United Methodist Church last night. For those that attended, we were blessed with Jim Greer taking us back to the thoughts and feelings of Simon Peter, as he walked with Jesus as a disciple. Jim’s great performance, combined with the beautiful singing voice of Mary, enriched and brought to life more vivid the words and action before us. At the end of the presentation, I had to stand and give the blessing, but I just wanted to stay in the pew and soak in and mediate on what I had seen. To a person, everyone was touched by the music and words that brought Simon Peter before us.
One of the lines that stuck out to me was when Simon Peter was in the courtyard and someone said to Peter, “Are you one of his disciples?” Then as if planned, there was a pause in the play as if that line was meant as a question to those of us watching, “Are you one of his disciples?” The quick reply answer for many of us would be, “Yes!” But do we show that in our day-to-day life that we are one of his disciples? Without confirming my faith, would others be able to tell solely by my words and behavior? Certainly something to grabble with as I go through my days this week how might my words and the things I do reflect to others the person of Jesus Christ?
I loved the ending of the play, for it ended with the message of the redemptive grace of God in restoring and forgiving Peter for his denials of Jesus earlier in the week. Is that so great of God that even in those days and weeks when we seem to be all flesh and very little Spirit, that God’s grace is there to restore, renew, and forgive; and to help us back on the road of redemption!
“So this is my prayer; that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of; bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 THE MESSAGE).
Grace and Peace,
Let us join in prayer with others throughout our nation and the world for the people of Boston. We are not those who live with no hope and only gloom, but we are those who live with the assurance that God is alive and present, and that one day, God will right the wrongs and restore our fallen world to His perfect kingdom.
Let us be carriers of God’s love and grace in our world today!