Friday, February 25, 2011

"Foolish" Thoughts on Life and Death

Today, Jesus' death just seemed so strange and radical to me. All his closest friends run away terrified that He is letting soldiers attack him (Mark 14). He lets the soldiers lead him away (15:16) and the rest of their battalion come gang up to mock him, strip him, and beat him (16-19). And He did nothing! He just took this beating and looked so foolish to them. 

He couldn't even carry his own cross to be killed because he was that weak from it all (21). Yet, once on the cross, when offered the wine with myrhh (which would ease the pain), he didn't take it (23). So he's clearly weak, yet chooses to takes the full brunt of the pain. Everyone walking by mocked as well and shouted at him to come down from the cross and prove himself (30). The chief priests and scribes said loudly that he couldn't save himself (31-32). Even the criminals hung with him reviled him (32). He looks so foolish to everyone. And He doesn't defend Himself or prove Himself. So hard to read. 

Look at what happens next... it is SO amazing:
And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!

Did you see that? The temple curtain! Look at what happened: the curtain was torn in two. The curtain!!!! There's some debate whether it was the inner curtain (which separated the "Holy of Holies" where God dwelled from the rest of the temple) or the outer (which separated the Gentiles from the Jews). Either brings the same incredible truth- The barrier is gone and we have access to the Father! The centurion obviously understood that and concluded that Jesus was exactly who He said He was: the Son of God!

If it's the interior, it shows how Jesus is the perfect sacrifice to bridge the gap no priestly sacrifice ever could. The exterior curtain it shows the same. How? The outer curtain is said (by Josephus) to have a "panorama of the entire heavens" on it. This fits with the image Mark shared in Jesus' baptism when the heavens were opened up (1:10). Here He has fulfilled God's required sacrifice and the curtain is torn to symbolize that He broke through the barrier between the heavens and earth. God (in heaven) and man had been separated and that curtain symbolized the separation. And when Jesus died (alone), the curtain tore in two. God and man are no longer separated because Jesus took on the full wrath of God for our sins. And not just the Jews, but the Gentiles too. WOW!

Everyone hated him, spat at him, and called him weak. And yet this "weak" and rejected man did what no other had ever dreamed of trying: He tore down the curtain and brought God and man into fellowship together again. Now his enemies can be His own. THAT is power!!! And it didn't end in death, but then He beat death! He rose again (Chapter 16)!!!! So amazing! He rose again!!!!! 

and for who? Who did He endure that horror, the murder and death, and rise agin for? Who? The very people who abandoned him. His friends who fled. All who call out to Him to be saved. Even His enemies. Even me. His enemy now His own. It makes no sense at all. But I'm so very glad.

God has really convicted Andy and I here. This feels weak as I read it because it is not how we do things. We defend ourselves. We fight back. And we're considered weak and passive if we don't fight back. Someone once told Andy he is not a loving father if he doesn't "prepare" and fight for His family and for God but instead lets someone kill him (or us) without fighting back. That's not what I see Jesus call us to do or model Himself. 

Look at this passage. We see Jesus lay down His life humbly. We see Him beaten mocked, abandoned, and killed. That is what we deserve, but He took it for us. So to be killed today as we show that very love to others is not senseless (or passive!) and we are not alone as we go through it. He is with us, guiding us, strengthening us in our weakness. And even in our death, because of Jesus, we gain life. No one who kills us takes anything from us. 

Is it an easy call? No. Am I willing? Ouch! It's still such a scary thought to me. But I pray that He'll change my heart so that I'll be willing to love my enemies like He loved me. I type this knowing that I may be judged, mocked, and look foolish for even typing this. I look weak and selfish. And I am. I don't think I can actually live it out. I get scared just being alone in a dark room! Yet it's freeing to even ask Him for this. To believe Him for it. I long to stop valuing my own life here the way I do. I long to love others like He's loved me: with my whole life and death.

I'm convicted as I read His teachings that I've missed Him. I hear what He's calling His followers to and my life doesn't reflect it. I haven't lived it in action. Yet I'm encouraged by Mark 15, because I see that He knew I wouldn't be able to. He knew. And so He died so that I might no longer be a slave to sin, but to Him alone.

 Oh Lord, do this impossible work in me. Don't let me forget what it cost You and what You've done in Your great love for Your own. Thank you SO much. Please give me the strength to pull away from the things in this world that I've clung to foolishly and find my rest and strength and joy in You alone. Give me a love for my family, my friends, and even my enemy that seems foolish to others, but reflects Your heart for us. Help me live my life taking big risks and in all my living and in my dying, may it show that YOU are the treasure of my heart and my joyful portion!!!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

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