Updated: Nov 7, 2020
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. 0 – John 19:28-3
As we approach the holiest three days of the Christian year, I want to return to the question of whether God is in control. Last week in Part 1, I explained why I do not think God is in control of the events in our world: He limits His power in respect of human freedom – freedom we use for good or for ill, but our freedom nonetheless. We human beings rather like having control, but when events and circumstances conspire and spiral completely out of control, we all look to God and wonder what the heck He is doing. Where did He go? How could He let this happen? If we cannot control our environment and safety, then we want rather desperately for God to do so.
I think the challenge for us is that we are so accustomed to living well and having all we need, we forget the tenuousness of our circumstances, and we forget how very much our world needs to be saved. We have more freedom, more choices, and more resources than any other country in the world. Because we have so little need, our society has forgotten God exists, confident that our advanced, sophisticated humanity can provide all we could possibly need or want. But this is an illusion. We do not have much power or control over our world at all. For all our advancements, we have forgotten how frail is the human creature, and how easily we can be harmed. All the great technological advantages give us a false sense of security for they have proven to be a flimsy defense against a tiny microbe. The virus spreads, moving like an unseen wind across the earth. The whole world is under attack, not from mighty military forces, but from tiny microbes.
What we are asking, however we may phrase it, is for God to fix what has gone wrong, for Him to make things right again for us. But God has already done this. He has already made things right. We need to remember that whatever our comforts in this life may be, they are all temporary, for this age will come to an end. We forget that this is the world that crucified our Messiah, our Savior – the Son of God. As Good Friday dawns, we need to think hard about our own comfort and ease of life in a world that would try to destroy the One Who gives us life and saves us, because that is what our world is. Our response to this pandemic is not much different than that of Jesus’ disciples when they followed Him. They wanted the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with palm branches and loud “hosannas,” to mark the beginning of God’s triumph over the political and military powers of Rome and to usher in the new kingdom of Israel. Instead, the triumphant entry was the beginning of the end. It was the momentary victory of sin over righteousness, evil over good, and death over life.
We are just like Jesus’ own disciples when we ask God to take control and to make things right in our world again. We want our world to be as we knew and enjoyed it, and we want our lives to go on as they did before. We want to have again the comfortable illusion of security and safety, the spiritual blindness that convinces us our success is God’s blessing and disease is God’s curse. This, God will not do, for that is not Who God is. Jesus’ crucifixion lacks life-altering power if we are looking for God to make life good in the here and now. He is not going to do that. He will help us, and He will save us. He will find us when we are lost, and He will lift us when we stumble and fall, but He is not going to make us comfortable in the squalor of sin and death. His plans are far bigger, far greater, and far more gracious than we could ever possibly imagine, much less merit.
When Jesus hung on the Cross, one of the very last statements He uttered was, “It is finished!” Most of us assume Jesus is talking about His earthly life being finished. He had done all He could do and was ready to die. This is accurate in a sense, but not in the sense we typically think. What Jesus finished was the initiation of God’s healing of all that was wrought through human sin and rebellion. He took on flesh, became one of us, and began the restoration of human beings, and through our healing, the restoration of the whole of creation. What God created, what we perverted, and what the powers of evil sought to destroy, began to be made new when the Son of God became Man. The entirety of Jesus’ life and ministry was the ongoing revelation of what God’s Kingdom is supposed to be and will one day be in full. The healing, the forgiving, the casting out of evil, the raising from the dead, all of these are setting to right that which human beings made wrong in His creation. Disease, sin, evil, and death belong to a broken world, a world infected with the plague of sin and death. Thus, when Jesus cried out that “it is finished!”, He was proclaiming victory over death, even as He entered into the realm of the dead. He could do so because in Him was Life, the life that never ends, the life that conquers and destroys death.
As disease spreads and fears grow, I would remind you that, while our freedom limits God’s power and control, there is nothing we do that can to diminish God’s victory. In Jesus Christ, disease is finished; sin is finished; evil is finished, and finally, death is finished. It is done! Our God reigns; the Lamb sits on His throne. But if we do not walk through the dark truth of Good Friday, we cannot possibly experience the wonder and beauty of Resurrection Sunday.
God has allowed us our freedom, and He ever calls us back to Him. He did not create us to suffer, but rather, to be the recipients of His immeasurable love and generosity. The choice is ours. The outcome of our choice to be our own gods is visible in our selfish obsessions, the incessant push for security and importance, and the unchecked terror of death’s finality. If we choose to live with God in trust and dependence, the Resurrection begins to break through our hearts and awakens our souls. The threats of this world may hover and lurk, but their power over us is finished. We are children of the Most High God, and Life always will be ours because our Savior destroyed death.
Until Christ returns in glory, we are subject to the vagaries and misery of sin, disease, and evil, but we must hold on to the truth. The temporary triumphs of this world are finished. In Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors, for it is our Father Who tells us how the story ends. Our Father who does control our destiny.
The ending has already begun, and we will celebrate it again in just a few days. There is more, so much more, than what we can see. If the crucifixion of our Lord becomes the lens through which we understand ourselves, then we are free to enjoy this world without being deluded by it. Even more importantly, we are given a glimpse of the life that will one day be fully ours.
Praying our Lord’s crucifixion will become real to you, so you may know the breathtaking life and joy of Resurrection…
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau – © 2020