In much younger days I had a friend who I said I would be willing to die for. I’m not sure if I went on record with this in an informal conversation or if it was said in a talk I would have given to a particular group of young adults.
Today, I’m not going to be dismissive of it. I’m not going to suggest it seems a little silly, though it does seem rather extreme. But is it? In a world where people donate kidneys and bone marrow to perfect strangers?
John 15:12 comes to mind: “There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.” (The Voice).
The Good Friday narrative is something we could never have come up with by ourselves. 1 Corinthians 2:9 echoes Isaiah 64:4 “No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (NCV) In Isaiah 55:8-9 we’re reminded that “His ways are higher than ours,” translated elsewhere as:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (NLT)
Just a few days ago we quoted Walter Wink, “If Jesus had never lived we would never have been able to invent him.”
…As I thought about this, a song title popped into my head, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” I don’t know this song at all, and a quick search proved it to be a Christmas song, not an Easter one; but the sentiment still applies namely, for those of us outside the Jewish sacrificial framework, the act of atonement would not have been predicted, and even within that context, a human sacrifice might not have been foreseen.
One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 10:11-12 (the reference is easily memorized)
11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. (NLT)
I wonder if back in that day, anyone ever looked the priests, “ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices” (NASB) and wondered, ‘What if we had a way to do this once and for all?’ Maybe that’s just me, or perhaps it’s just a 2017 mindset. Maybe they didn’t think like that back then. Or, ‘What if there was such a perfect sacrifice that this act need never be repeated?’
It was and is a strange way to save the world.
…I’m posting this on Thursday so we can think about it as we head into Good Friday. This whole thing, conceived in the mind of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but so intricately detailed that an adult can never cease to be fascinated by it.
And then there’s prophecy; that dozens upon dozens of prophecies are fulfilled on a single day. We often talk about a story that wraps up all its loose ends as, ‘putting a bow on it.’ In this one God ties up the bow and hands us a gift labelled, ‘For you.’
…Even as I write this I see my words’ deficiencies. I’m thinking of the plan of salvation and not focusing that in all of this Jesus is ushering in his kingdom. For 3+ years he teaches, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand;’ (see Matthew 4:17) and if this Easter weekend represents the climax of the story, then certainly his death and resurrection has huge kingdom implications. It’s hard to tell the whole story in a few short paragraphs and not leave something out.
However, we are on safe ground to allow ourselves to see this weekend in atonement terms. Looking to the cross we find forgiveness. Remembering his sacrifice on Good Friday we’re reminded that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 CSB)