From Passion City Church, a very clever piece of prose (which you have to watch to the mid-way point to “get”).
Recently I was asked to write a little something for the lead-up to Easter for a church event. It was to be a “call and response”, something which I’m not really familiar with. The basic idea is that a caller says something (from the front), and then the response is given by the congregation.
Due to other commitments, I only had about three nights to write it. I’m reasonably happy with what I came up with. It will not be used verbatim, as I consider it a draft that can be re-worked by the event organiser. The congregational response is in italics.
He was at home in heaven, worshipped by the angels and in perfect unity with the trinity.
But we were separated, lost in our sin. The weight of the law too heavy and our natures corrupt.
He left comfort, unlimited power and heavenly majesty to enter the world as a babe.
You gave it up for us, knowing what the cost would be.
He came in stealth, not hailed as a King but miraculously, into humble circumstances and ridiculed by the community. He lived among us as a human, with all the highs and lows of life. The Word records that he grew in favour with both God and man.
You understand what it is to be human and can empathize with our struggles and temptations, but were without sin.
Few recognised him, but he came to save us; to be our salvation. To give us a way back into relationship, through truth and grace.
You came to bring a mirror to our hearts.
He was a friend to the sinner, the thief, the adulterer, the sick, the despised and the guilty. He looked down on none, nor hid his face from any who sought him. He was a friend and neighbour to all in need, coming with gentleness and love. A bruised reed he would not break, nor a smouldering wick put out. He saw us not with human eyes, but with a divine heart.
You taught us what it means to love, and what God expects. You did not condemn us for our sins or allow others to, but instead forgave us and called us to repentance.
He was welcomed as a King, but came on his own terms. He rejected power, fame and wealth and sought only to do the Father’s will. His eyes were always focused on the eternal. He knew his blood would be poured out and his body broken for the forgiveness of our sins.
You did it for us, while we were still sinners.
In the Garden we saw his humanity, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He begged the Father to save him from his fate. Those he had brought along slept during his emotional heartache.
Fearful but obedient, you did it for us. You did it for me.
Before the Sanhedrin and Pilot, he was falsely accused; betrayed and abandoned by friends. He who has been faithful through all time felt the repeated sting of faithlessness. He was innocent.
I am not. Someone had to pay the price, and you didn’t want it to be me.
Pilot would not save him. He who is perfectly Just, received no justice. They stripped him and mocked him. He was beaten and spat on. His head, deserving of a royal crown, was pierced by a cruel crown of thorns.
You wore the crown for me.
He was whipped without mercy, his back shredded, bloody and torn by iron and bone.
By my sin and iniquity.
They lay him on the cross. How his humanity must have wanted to flee, to call on the angels to protect him. Obedience held him there, firmer than any human hands could. But obedience would not have held the fear or pain away.
All he ever did was care for humanity, loving us and wanting to restore us. And the judgement for our sin came down on him, again and again – THUD, THUD, THUD as the nails were driven through his hands and then his feet.
You paid the price for me. You took my guilt and shame.
What unspeakable agony he must have endured upon that cross of ours, as flesh, muscle, bone and nerves were broken or pushed aside by iron spikes. He screamed out, that we would not have too. His body was broken that ours could remain whole. His life was cut short, that ours could go on for eternity.
You were pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities. My rightful punishment fell upon you.
Even upon the cross, he asked the Father to grant us mercy.
It is who you are. You are good beyond all measure.
At his death the curtain in the temple was torn; the barrier between God and man removed. A new covenant was created and sealed by his blood. He came to open the eyes of the blind, to set captives free and release those who are trapped in darkness.
I am not worthy of your love and mercy, but I gratefully accept it. Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is anything offensive within it. You are my God and my life belongs to you.
As a young lad, my natural tendency was towards optimism. The experience of being a disabled adolescent crushed the optimism and gave birth to the foul taint of pessimism. It wasn’t always visible, but pessimism lurked like a dark reflex-action in my heart.
Like a broken but long-held habit it occasionally reappears, offering it’s cynical view on everything. It’s about as helpful as water to a drowning person.But praise be to God and my patient wife for righting my attitude with a thousand well-earned admonishments.
Sure, there are things I could be worried about, or sad about, but there is so much more to be thankful about. A bitter heart never warms or blesses anyone.
Chief among the things I have to be happy about is my relationship with Jesus Christ. On Easter Friday we celebrate the death of Jesus, crucified upon a cross. It is through this undeserved death, prophesied throughout history, man can re-enter relationship with God. And so we celebrate on Easter Friday redemption, followed by complete victory when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Monday.
It is from this future hope, and a growing knowledge of the character of God, that life has meaning, purpose and endless amounts of joy. Life doesn’t become magically easy but it does take in a deep richness.
The bloody cross was the way a lost humanity could be reunited with a holy God.Jesus was scourged with a whip because our sins required punishment. He was executed upon a cross because our sins required atonement. He – the Son of God – was willing to provide it.
In doing so, he made a way for us to be restored to God.
…Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)
Isaiah 53:10-13 completes the prophetic passage that refers to Jesus: mentioning his death, resurrection and the relationship that is offered.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Despite his public controversies I will always be thankful to Mel Gibson for creating The Passion of the Christ movie.
I can still remember watching it for the first time back in 2004. The cinema was packed and the emotions of the audience raw. Minute after agonizing minute we watched the vivid portrayal of Jesus being relentlessly tortured and crucified. The movie pulled no punches, brutally revealing the horrors of a Roman crucifixion in all of its mind-numbing horror.
The prophet Isaiah wrote the following of Jesus 700 years before his birth:
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah, 53:4-6)