Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday

After singing our 35-minute choral piece, "Colors of Grace: Lessons For Lent," during our Good Friday service at UCI tonight, the lights were dimmed and we shared in Holy Communion, partaking of the true Passover meal in which our Savior Jesus' body and blood are offered to us. As I sat watching the others wait to take the bread and wine, the beautiful thought came to me: Jesus died for him and for her, for each one of his ransomed saints whom he purchased with his blood (Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9). Jesus' death wasn't just some general atonement for sins to which we join ourselves through the exercise of our faith; as the Good Shepherd he died to bring forgiveness, reconcilation, and life to each of the sheep given him by his Father. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11, 14-15).

Jesus' death actually saves sinners: "You are to give him the name Jesus ["Yahweh saves"], because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). That means he had each of us who trust him in mind as he bore beatings, mockings, being spit upon, insults, scourging, and the agony of hanging limp and lacerated upon a Roman cross. Already in the eternal plan of God our names were "engraved on the palms of his hands" (Isaiah 49:16) with the nails. He died for Riza from the Phillipines, for Hasan from Iran, for Erin from Canada, for Ramiel from Moldova, for Valerya from Russia, Jutta from Germany--even for Andrew from Saginaw, Michigan. God's love isn't some amorphous malaise. It is a sacrificial, redeeming love fixed upon each of his children, whose names he wrote even
before the foundation of the world in "the book of the Lamb who was slain" (Revelation 13:8). Let us believe along with the Apostle Paul that "Jesus loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Yes, that means he knew each and every one of our hideous, shameful, godless acts that drove him to the Cross--and he chose to endure the pain even still. A "love that surpasses understanding" indeed.

During his final meal with his disciples, Our Lord said that he will not eat the Passover meal again "until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God," and he "will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:14-18). Yet as we, the redeemed from over twenty nations, partook in the Table together, a little slice of the kingdom was true even there in the evening calm. For just as the high priest Caiaphas ignorantly prophesied, Jesus died "not only for [the Jewish] nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one" (John 11:52)--and so it was tonight.

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