Wednesday, April 1, 2015

God's Perspective--An Easter Post

As I read the gospels, I imagine I am an observer of the stories being played out. When I do this, I realize the disciples were limited in their knowledge of the significance of the events they were observing.  As the disciples walked and talked with Jesus, they were human who were not omniscient. They understood only from what they observed and what their human finite minds could grasp. In the short time span they were with Jesus, they saw Him perform powerful miracles--the blind received sight, the deaf were able to hear, lepers had their skin made new, and the dead were raised to life. In addition, a bleeding woman was healed by touching His hem, a legion of demons was cast out by a spoken command, and common water was turned into extravagant wine. Because of Him, crowds were fed on a couple of fishes and a few loaves of bread with baskets heaped full of the leftovers. His disciples also saw Him walk on water, speak with such authority that the seas and the winds obeyed, and cast nets at His bidding into an empty sea and saw them fill to the brim until the nets broke.

The disciples also heard Him speak many sermons, some of which were filled with hope and encouragement. Some sermons explained deep theological concepts and others contained prophesies about the future. Some were strong, assertive confrontations aimed at the Pharisees who enslaved people with their do's and don'ts and others contained blessings spoken over the hearers. All heard Him claim to be both God and man and His actions certainly verify that truth.

During what would be His last week on earth, He entered the city riding on a donkey as people waved palm branches and shouted Hosanna--an entrance certainly fitting for the upcoming King. But soon things began to unfold in ways the disciples weren't expecting. They had the Passover Meal with Him. He picked up one of the symbolic loaves of bread and He broke it, saying it was His body broken for them and then He took one of the cups, saying the wine in it represented His blood that would be shed for them--words contradicting a coming Kingdom. Then the Master, The Messiah, The Son of God, The Son of Man, washed their feet, showing by example the leaders He called them to be.

Then there was the late night visit to the Garden with a few close friends. There He prayed so fervently and was so full of ambivalence that He began to sweat drops of sweat tinged with blood. And, His friends slept as anguish filled His soul. He prayed and prayed and prayed, asking His Father to remove the cup of suffering, while at the same time proclaiming His father's will be done.

Soon after He prayed He was arrested, tried, flogged, dressed in purple, and crowned with a crown of thorns--the very thorns that symbolized the curse. The disciples had to wonder in those moments what had happened to the power He had shown before. His country men rejected Him and they yelled for Pilate to crucify Him. Betrayed by a friend, denied by another, and deserted by those who had loved Him best.

The same God-man who had commanded the seas to calm, the demons to leave, diseases to flee, was hung on a cross. The long awaited Messiah hung between heaven and earth and the sky grew dark. As He breathed His last breath, the curtain of the temple was torn clean in two, leaving nothing between sinful man and a Holy God. How I wonder if they understood the significance of that or if in the moment they feared it meant God was angry with them and was departing from their midst. What did they think as the earth shook, as rocks split, and as tombs, once sealed, were open wide?

All seemed hopeless as the Messiah was laid to rest. Dark were the days that followed as His disciples were filled with grief, disappointment, and shame. No Kingdom came. No Messiah reigned. No Teacher remained to teach, so back to their fishing they went.

What had happened to the man whose words alone conveyed power enough that the universe came to be, that diseases fled, that dead bodies rose, that demons pleaded and obeyed? What happened to the man who was courageous enough to speak strong truth that tickled the self-righteous pride of the  Pharisees? It seemed as if the disciples hope for a messianic kingdom died as they laid Him in the tomb, struggling with their own failures, grieving their unmet expectations, and their hope for freedom so far away.

Then three days later, the tomb was found open and empty except for His grave clothes. The risen Savior began to appear to those He called His own. He called His disciples back to the work He wanted them to do. They didn't understand during those bleak hours when their hope ran low--the hours that Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth--that the greatest victory was in the making. That was the moment the sinless God-man took our sin in His body--every sin imaginable--the lies, the murders, the adultery, the pride, the hatred, the gossip, the gluttony, the acts of violence, the sexual perversion, the unbelief, the withholding of love, and the hiding. And as our sin was taken He gave us His righteousness in its place, reconciling us forever to God--the God who created us, the God who loved us, and the God who laid down His life for us.

I don't think the disciples understood in the moment the full significance of the cross--and I am not sure that we do either. The dark hours belied the fact that the love of God was being poured out on mankind as Jesus bore our sin in His body. In the darkness of that day the disciples didn't see that the righteousness of God came face to face with the sinfulness of man. They didn't see that their was a spiritual battle waging in the background and the enemy was being completely, forever defeated and that the curse was finally lifted and man could be set free. They didn't have the knowledge to see that in Jesus' death they would be given life--spiritual life--life that would transform them and allow them to overcome evil with good. 

I love that many churches revisit the passion of the cross through Good Friday services. For it is in remembering the pain of the cross that we are reminded of the deep love of God. It is in remembering the Lord's death that we realize again and again that the grace He extends daily to us didn't come cheap. The grace that is free to us cost God the price of His Son--the Son in whom He was well pleased, the Son whom He loved, the Son who by His own choice was obedient to the death on the cross.

I hope I never forget that at the time the world seemed most hopeless, irrevocable hope was being birthed and the darkest times are those times when God's light shines the brightest. From a human perspective things can look bleak, but our God is the God of the resurrection power. When life seems hopeless and confusing from our vantage point, God sees it from the cross and the open grave and He uses those things to bring about His perfect will. A God who loves so radically is surely a God we can trust.       

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!