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Friday, April 22, 2011

Passing from Death to Life

Today is both Earth Day and Good Friday.  This coincidence is to me very significant, perhaps even ironic.  On Earth Day, we are supposed to focus on preserving the earth for the next generation, while gatherings honoring Good Friday are talking about how the entire world threw away an even more irreplaceable gift one evening, thousands of years ago.

Let me make one thing clear:  I am not opposed to conserving resources and minimizing waste on this earth.  I think God gave human beings an extravagant "wedding present" when He made this planet, and I believe that we blew it when we sinned and brought a curse to it.  The decline and end of earth was long ago predicted, not as a result of our industrial revolution, but more directly as a result of our sin.  Earth's days are numbered, and its destruction is assured (Psalm 102: 25-27; Isaiah 51:6).  Nevertheless, we ought to take good care of what we have been given.  It is foolish not to do so.

So we definitely should do our part to take care of the earth.  On the other hand, we should know that by taking care of the earth, we cannot prolong our lives or improve our fortunes.  We will all die, whether we die in a smoggy city or a beautiful forested landscape.  Our lives are ultimately in God's hands, but the quality and content of our lives has been left up to us.

This is why I'd rather focus on the other holiday we observe today: Good Friday.

Now, fairly recently I have observed a strange phenomenon in churches in my area.  It seems that Good Friday is greeted as a day to mourn Jesus' death.  It troubles me when I see this, because I don't believe Jesus died today.  I mean, Jesus endured one Good Friday, to put an end to all Good Fridays.  He is not crucified again today, and He is not dead any longer (Matthew 28: 5-7).  His sacrifice was the last one, putting Death to death (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57).  Why the mourning and the tears?

Is it a sense of shame over the great sin that was committed on that Good Friday, so long ago?  I believe Christ prayed over all of us on the cross, asking God to forgive us of that sin (Luke 23:24), or else the whole world would have been judged because of God's anger.  As it was, the earth itself trembled when Christ died, but God's great love for us held back the full violence of His wrath (Lamentations 3: 22-24).  Because I believe Jesus forgave us for the crucifixion, I believe we should put that condemnation behind us.

So what is Good Friday?  I think it's a day to share with the world what Jesus did for us long ago.  It's a day to share the life that Jesus won for us!  On this day, thousands of years ago, Jesus passed from death to life, but we didn't know it at the time.  The perishable things about Him passed away, but God honored the imperishable things in Christ--His righteousness and obedience.  Because Jesus had fully obeyed God, even to the cross, God raised Him up three days later.

Now, despite all we can do, and every honorable thing we can do on this earth and concerning this earth, we cannot do what Jesus did.  We cannot earn eternal salvation.  The best we can do is to fall on Christ's mercy.  Those who humbly ask for Christ's forgiveness are forgiven, and Jesus welcomes them to share in the life that He earned.  In Jesus' words:
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.  Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5: 24-25 NIV 2011)
Today, may they hear and may they live!  There is no better way to celebrate Good Friday.