Cnr High Street & President Boshoff Street, Bethlehem, Free State, South Africa
Sunday Service and Sunday School at 9:00am
Rev Cecil Rhodes 062 1230 640

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Weekly Devotion

A Good Friday reflection... The events of Good Friday make riveting, on the edge of your chair, reading. It is suspense and drama played out in the public eye: Can you imagine the media hype if it played out today, lets say in here in South Africa - the cameras, the reporters, the gossip, the scandal, and the hype. The political leader of the day hands the prisoner over to the rioting mob outside the parliament gates. The mob parade the prisoner through the town up onto a hill in full view of the public, continually striking and beating him up. On the hill, with two other prisoners, they are brutally put to death. The place of death is the biggest crossroad and bus depot in the town. The political leader puts up a sign depicting who the prisoner is, and the mob want it taken down. If we think it can’t get worse just before he dies the prisoner asks for something to drink and the mob callously offer him a sour mixture of vinegar and wine on a sponge on the end of a long stick. When he is dead the mob strip him of clothes and take his clothes home for themselves. While this is all going on the prisoner’s family are watching, and making last minute arrangements as to who will take care of his family. We would probably turn the TV off in disgust and horror at the violence of the world we live in, and walk away trying to erase the horrendous pictures from our minds. This is what we tend to do when confronted with the brutality of violence and death. We will do most everything in our power to avoid facing up to the way things are, in so many places in our world, including here on out doorstep. Death is a picture, a reality we avoid as best we can. So we sentimentalize it - we sing ‘on the old rugged cross’, or, ‘on a green hill far, far away’, or ‘in the cross of Christ I glory’. We craft beautiful ornate crosses and hang them around our necks, and everywhere. We avoid death wherever we can. We are afraid of our mortality. Yet right in the heart of God’s salvation plan, central to everything we believe, is death. And death at its most abhorrent and violent. It is only being in the ministry that I have been forced to sit down and converse with death and dying. Literally forced to. And it is been a difficult and sad and painful journey, for with death comes the unimaginable grief of losing our loved ones. A loss so great and life altering I nearly avoided writing this, in respect for the gravity of grief and loss death brings. But I want to probe, go a little further on the death journey of Good Friday, for it seems to me this death journey has some essential lessons to teach us. Let’s just look at two lessons, one from God’s side and one from our side. From God’s side: The finality of death, which pains us most, is the very thing, on the cross that sets us free most. Death is the final dealing with sin, it really is. Sin with death is gone. It is finished. The wages of sin is death. Sin is done with like it was never there; the job is complete, final. That’s why the Psalmist could say we are forgiven as high as the sky is from the earth, as far as the east is from the west. I don’t want to downplay our wrongdoing and guilt, but it is no longer an issue. Death has destroyed it. Forgiveness rules supreme. We are freer than we ever thought. We just got to let go of the guilt! From our side: We need a massive mind shift here, a radical paradigm shift. We need to rethink the way we look at death. The finality and grief set aside, death is a welcome friend, in all the forms it comes - all the little ones we suffer along the way (losses, heartaches, failures, disappointments, lost dreams) and finally when the big one comes. A death is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS the beginning of something new and better. Jesus said it over and over: “Unless a grain of seed falls in to ground and dies, it bears no fruit”, “If you keep your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life you will find it”, and “The last shall be first.” This is why the death of Jesus is called Good Friday! God does immense “life-saving, forgiving, grace-giving” good in us through Jesus’ death; and ‘death’ when it comes to us does immense, immense good in us. So much so Paul, writes, “Death is destroyed; victory is complete! "Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?" Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

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