When a rocket is about to be launched there is a count down, 10…9…8… When there is an exam coming there are just 3…2…1…days left to study. That relentless pursuit time weighs heavily as the day approaches. Such were these days for our Lord. He knew clearly what was ahead. The prophets had foretold the events of this week hundreds of years before, but that was hundreds of years. Now it is down to days and hours until Jesus faces His trial. He still went to the Temple to teach the people. He still healed a few, but the Jewish leaders looked on, like vultures waiting for the kill. All of this rested on Jesus’ mind as He spent these days. He found some comfort with the company of His disciple, but the task that lay ahead weighed on Him every moment. He would be the unblemished Lamb of God who shed His blood for the sins of all mankind. There was no other way. He alone, God in human flesh, the perfect man, would make the atoning sacrifice. Tuesday…Wednesday…Thursday…until the cross.
Does the Lord get angry? There are certainly enough passages in the Old Testament that speak of the Lord’s anger. Oh, but that is the Old Testament! The God of the New Testament is a God of love and forgiveness. That is just the danger when we try to split the two Testaments. It is not the picture we get when Jesus entered the Temple court, knotting a whip, and driving the money changers out. It is certainly not the picture we get on the hill called Calvary with Jesus hanging on the cross. That is the ultimate picture of God’s anger against sin. God is angry against sin, because sin causes a separation between Himself and the people He created. Sin must be judged and the full weight of God’s wrath brought upon it. That is also why the cross is the ultimate picture of God’s grace. God laid the full weight of His anger for all of our sins upon His only Son as He hung on the Roman tree. Jesus took God’s anger, and experienced the hell we deserve, upon Himself. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13) Jesus, in His love for you and me, has taken God’s anger for our sins into Himself, and allowed us to stand in righteousness before God. That is what this week is all about. That is what both Testaments declare.
Someone once remarked that “progress is man’s attempt to complicate simplicity.” Our lives do become complicated, and with the complications worries mount. “What about this? What if that happens? Will I get this done on time?” There is no easy answer to our complications, but our Lord continually tells us not to worry or be anxious. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In quietness and trust is your strength.” Unfortunately, to the people to whom Isaiah wrote, he immediately had to say, ” but you would have none of it.” They immediately went back to relying on their own strength. Let that not be our response. Our Lord continually invites us to quiet our souls by trusting completely in Him. Let’s not borrow troublt ahead, or add more complications to life. Do what is needed for today, and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands.
My office walls contain a lot of what would be called memorabilia, pictures of a boat I once had and enjoyed, sketches I’ve drawn on various outings, pictures of a trip to Africa a number of years ago, shelves of antique radio parts, family photos from before I was born, and so forth. Each item has meaning for me about my personal history and heritage. We all have such things, but we also have a heritage that goes a lot deeper than anything we might have keep at home. As Christians, our heritage goes back through a line of saints and martyrs who have brought the message of Christ to us through the past 20 centuries. Even further, our faith line goes back through prophets and kings to Moses and Abraham. And then before that to our Lord who knew us before we were born. Whatever heritage items we may treasure at home are only a small part of our life’s story. We have a Lord who knows and loves us, following us day by day through all of our life, bringing us to a time when all that is past will have little importance because we will be looking into a most glorious future.
I read a poem recently about how one person felt close to God when in church on Sunday morning. In the singing and prayers, God seemed to be very near. This is good, and we are admonished in Scripture to “not neglect the meeting together.”(Hebrews10:25) When we come together in the congregation we are fed by Word and Sacrament, and assured of the love and grace of God. But we also remind ourselves that God is not confined to a building or an hour. We like the expression today – 24/7, but that is our God. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”(Matthew 28:20) It is right and necessary that we be regular in our corporate worship, but we are to worship our Lord daily. We praise Him through all of our actions, seek Him for our direction, and lean on Him for our strength. We talk with Him as friend to friend. We are always close to our Lord, whether we are in a church building or not. Walk with Him and enjoy Him today.
Yesterday, I complained a bit about the changes that have come about in society disconnecting people from one another. Being older, however, it is easy for me to fall into the “we never done it that way before” mentality, and not see some of the positive things that are happening. The Church, though, has always been in the position of seeking to show the world there is something different in life. This is what got Jesus in trouble with the Pharisees. He wanted them to see the grace of God that all of their laws really intended, but that they were too locked into their system to see. The Church was founded to show the world that there is a new and far better way of life by walking in faith in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the Church has accepted too many of the worlds values, but there I go again complaining. Even so, in God’s Word, and through faith in Christ, we do have something to share that is different and better than anything the normal paths of modern society has to offer. In the love of Christ we can extend a hand of fellowship that really is life changing.
I follow a blog fairly regularly by a fellow named Kenneth who is traveling around the country, and later Europe, visiting coffee shops, and having conversations with a large variety of people. His conversations are providing a wonderful cross section of modern life. He remarked the other day how much the world is different now than years ago, and because of all the texting, etc. people are more disconnected today. They seem to be connected because of all the communication, but lack the personal face to face contact. Electronics are sterile, impersonal, easily able to hide behind. What strikes me from his coffee house visits is the number of people who are willing to sit down with him, in most cases a perfect stranger, and pour out some details of their lives for one, two, or three hours at a time. There really must be a sense of loss at that personal contact. Nothing replaces looking into another person’s eyes, a strong hand shake, or a warm hug. I decry such changes in our world, but maybe this says something that the church needs to take seriously. This is a human contact that we can certainly provide in showing the love of Christ, and pointing to something deeper than can be found in any text message.