Friday, April 06, 2007

What's so "Good" about Friday?

Although I think I noted in the past that there's almost something clichéd about a Christmas post, I don't think that it may be so for an Easter post. Perhaps I'm wrong, I don't know. The thing is, though, while I wanted to make a post for the Easter season, I was having a hard time figuring out what it was exactly that I wanted to say about the holiday. Then it hit me: in a way, I'd partially already said it.

In my previous post about Elizabeth Edwards, I noted that while there is sometimes a faith that moves mountains, I think more often there is a faith that says, "You know, that mountain is probably there for a good reason." I wondered if such a message would be accepted by many, and I suspected that there are more than a few Christians who would scoff at the idea of a passive, "let it be" faith. (Of course, since nobody seems to be reading, it's hard to tell what people think. It's okay, I don't write for fame, but merely as a creative outlet.)

Then it occurred to me that the best way to make an argument for the value of something to a Christian is to show it modeled in the life of Christ. So today, we come to Good Friday.

The evening before Jesus was crucified, a couple of things happened in short succession, the Gospel of Luke outlining the events best in Luke 22:39-51. Jesus goes off a short distance from his disciples to pray by himself, and this is what he says in that passage:

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
Jesus knew that he had less than 24 hours left to live, and he wasn't looking forward to the painful death coming to him, but he didn't want a miraculous escape if it meant that his purpose in coming to earth and dying would be defeated. He knew that this was his fate, not only that night, but for all of his life. Many times he had taught his disciples that it was coming. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to be arrested, tortured, and put to death, and later in that same discourse, he gives the famous line about
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matt. 16:24)
He means that in a figurative way for many, but for more than a few with him that day, it was meant literally. The Apostle Peter in particular is known to have been crucified. Jesus knew that difficult times were coming for him and for his followers, but he did not suggest running away, but facing it with bravery instead.

It's the second event that happened that night that illustrates something about Jesus' attitude, faith, and power. Shortly after praying the prayer above, the soldiers came to arrest him. Peter, knowing by that time what was going on, but still not completely accepting of the idea of Jesus going to the cross, jumps up and cuts off the ear of one of the men with a sword. Jesus rebukes him, saying,
"Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (John 18:11, Matt. 26:53)
Jesus points out that he is accepting his fate despite the fact that he has at his disposal the supernatural power to avoid it, and with that, he heals the man's ear. That act of healing is the last miracle of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, and he performs it for a man who is coming to take him away to his death!

How could any Christian say that anyone has greater faith than Jesus had himself? Being God in the flesh, he knew more than any other the power and the purpose of God. He knew that in any situation, he had either the power to provide for himself anything he wanted, or to simply ask his Father for provision and it would be given. But throughout the Gospels, even to the moment of his death on the cross, Jesus never performed a miracle for his own personal needs.

Maybe in your hour of need, God will save you. Maybe he will rescue you from your trouble or heal your pain, or make you rich. Maybe. But consider this: Jesus never did any of those things for himself.

Consider the things that you wish you had. Feel free to pray for them; it's not a sin. But think also of the things that God has given you, and realize that any favor you have been shown by God is more generosity than He showed for His Son. Jesus, the Lord and Creator of the universe, gave us everything, and today is the day that we remember that all he took for himself was death, the punishment for our sins. Good Friday wasn't such a good day for Jesus, but he made it a very good day for the rest of us.

Have a blessed Easter.

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