This is the weekend we celebrate something unbelievable. Perhaps one of the most important days in the Christian religion, the other being Advent, when we celebrate something else that is simply unbelievable. Advent marks the birth of Jesus Christ, born to a virgin. Resurrection Sunday marks the day that child born of a virgin was raised from the dead. Two impossibly unbelievable bookends to this Man’s life on earth. And this Man’s life was continuously filled with and marked by other impossible events. Healing the sick, commanding the lame to walk, defeating an army of demons housed inside of a man with but a word, and causing the blind to see.
But all of these impossible events began in media res, in the middle of the action. Because this story began thousands of years before the virgin birth, when God began His impossibly unbelievable work of CHOOSING to create mankind out of the overflowing joy that exists within the Trinity. If that wasn’t enough, allowing us to share in the eternal joy that exists within the Godhead, He did something else beyond belief: He made man in His image. Then the tale of impossibly unbelievable events continues by man doing the unthinkable: Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and embraced sin, falling prey to the lies of worshiping creation instead of Creator, seeking their fulfillment in something other than the God who created them. And then we see what is probably one of the most unbelievable occurrences in all of Scripture: God allows man to live, and shows grace by not allowing man to live forever in our sinfully broken state, so we would not be forced to live out our days eternally separated from the joy that is found in fellowship with God.
Yet, my fear is that we have heard this so much throughout our lives: the Creation Story, the Christmas Story, the Easter story. I’m afraid that there are those of us who have heard this so much that it has become JUST a story. We have heard of all of God’s amazing, impossibly unbelievable works so often that we have allowed them to become mundane in our hearts. We have, in a sense, become inoculated to the Gospel. We’ve had just enough to make us think that we don’t really need the Gospel. This inoculation, combined with the “there’s nothing wrong with anyone” vibe we get from our “enlightened” American culture, leads us to feel that we are ok as long as we aren’t doing anything really horrible like committing murder.
The problem with that is, well, the Bible. The Scriptures teach us that each and every one of us have committed treason against King Jesus and DESERVE death. The psalmist doesn’t even give himself the chance to escape from the womb before he calls himself a sinner, born in iniquity. In Ephesians, Paul says that we were 1) dead in our sins, 2) followers of this world, 3) Satan worshipers, 4) appetite driven, 5) children of wrath. Each of us has fallen prey to the same lies that ensnared Adam and Eve, and all the generations before us. God is love, and because God’s love terminates on Himself and His glory, He cannot overlook this treason. There must be blood to make each and every one of our grievous sins justified (Heb. 9:22). But the love that God has for Himself and His glory extends to us because we are made in His image, and are a representation of His dominion and an icon of His glory. Yet, God’s love for Himself and His glory requires Him to hate the sin that so consumes our hearts. And the cross is where God’s love and His justice meet.
The cross is where God the Son appeased God the Father’s wrath toward the sin of those who would believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. The cross is where God the Son purchased for us healing, secured our hope, and solidified our freedom from sin, death, and Hell. The cross is where God took it upon Himself to pay for our sins – they weren’t accidental mistakes, they were willful sins. The cross is where Jesus willingly sacrificed His life, out of obedience to the Father, to atone for our sins. But, just as the cross is deeply personal, testifying that each of us is desperately in need of God’s grace and forgiveness for our sins, and that we are loved by God to the point that Jesus would endure the cross, the cross is also cosmic and epic. The cross is about something MUCH BIGGER THAN US! The cross is about God bringing Himself glory. The cross is about God dealing Satan the final blow, and claiming victory in this cosmic battle that has raged throughout history. The cross is about God restoring His image and His creation. And this is where we find our hope. If God is for God, and God’s goal is to display His glory for all of creation to see, then we know that God will work to restore man that was made in His image. Does He save everyone, no. But He saves. He redeems. He justifies. He gladly bears the burdens that we couldn’t bear for the sake of His name and His glory.
There is much to learn from Good Friday, so much that we can never hope to comprehend all that God shows about Himself and about us on that day. But the story doesn’t end at the cross. Life goes on, and Saturday comes. Saturday, the day no one remembers. But Saturday shows us that God’s silence and stillness isn’t absence or inaction. Because on Saturday, while the disciples mourned and hid in fear, while the Romans and Jews thought they were victorious over this Jesus who had “caused so much trouble”, while all of life seemed to go on after our Savior was pulled from the cross – beaten, bloody, and humiliated – placed in a tomb and guarded, while all of this happened God was waiting to fulfill His own prophecies in His own timing, defeating death and killing the killing curse. Because even in the silence, God was working then, we can know that even when God seems silent in our lives, He is still actively working.
Then the next morning, with a flash of light and breath of the Spirit, our Lord and King arose. The Christus Victor broke through the bonds that held Him in the grave, and shattered the boulder that kept Him hidden in darkness, surrounded by death. In this moment, the entire perfect life of Jesus and His atoning death were justified and declared to be enough to appease the wrath of God toward sin. Enough to set us free from sin and death. Enough to give us peace WITH God. So that we no longer have to feel estranged from our Creator. Enough to give us the peace OF God, so that we no longer have to try to fill our hearts with the empty promises of the things of this world, but can truly find our meaning, purpose, substance, value, and worth in our risen Savior.
This isn’t JUST a story. This is a cold, chilling reality for those whose hearts do not belong to King Jesus. This is a beautiful, epic reality for those whose hearts do belong to our loving Savior. If your heart isn’t stirred by this — not by my words, but by the message of the Gospel itself — then please, please fall on your knees and ask God to make real to you the truths of the Gospel: your worth, your value, and your significance bound up in His love, His justice, His grace, and His compassion.