How do we measure God? That may seem like a strange question, but I think we have the tendency to measure God all the time. For example, Is God good only when He gives us what we want, what we think are good things? That seems to the the thought behind statements like – How could a good God ……? or If God is a God of love why …..? This is a god made in our image, which is something we try too often to do. Are we hearing that today in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic? God Himself declares,”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”(Isaiah 55:8-9) Many of God’s ways are hidden to us. In the smallness of our minds we cannot fathom the infinite wisdom of God’s mind. But He has revealed Himself throughout Scripture as our Creator God who loves and works for the good of His creation, and for His eternal purpose. We are in the midst of this Holy Week where “God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8) Rather than try to measure God by our standards, we do well to come in humble trust to Him who has shed the blood of His own Son for our redemption and new life.
We are in a difficult and fearful time. The number of virus cases and deaths in our country continues to rise. As Christians we believe that God is not absent. He is not uncaring. Scripture assures us that He knows and deeply loves each of us as individuals. We believe He created us and has a plan for our lives. Yet the pandemic continues with all of its changes, trials, sacrifices, suffering and death. We pray for the wellbeing and for the healing of those we care about. We want it all to stop, but there is a further important question. What is it that we are to learn? We believe the above statements about our Lord caring about each of us. We also believe He has the power to stop this virus. Do we take the advice Job’s wife gave him, “curse God and die.”?(Job 2:9) Some today are blaming, cursing, and rejecting God because of what is happening. Job refused to take her advice. And remember, in the Book of Job that poor man lost everything dear to him. Rather than curse God he declared, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”(13:15) By the end of the 42 chapters in his book Job had received advice from a number of friends, but it was only when he was confronted by our sovereign Lord that he understood something of his relationship with the God who created him. He was willing to humble himself, and put himself into the hands of a Wisdom far greater than his own. This being the start of Holy Week for the Christian Church we are shown again all that our Gracious Lord has done for our redemption and life. (I believe there is meaning in the fact that this pandemic has disrupted the Church during its most holy season of the year.) It is in this week that God has shown us the depth of His love. He has shown us His pain when we suffer – as any parent suffers when their children are hurt. In our human limitations we cannot understand all His mind and His purposes. Yet He has, especially in this week, demonstrated the depth of His love in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son that we might have life. As Job, we do not understand all that is happening. We don’t know all that is ahead, but He can be trusted. Can we do that?
This is tax day in the U.S., but there is something far more important here than the deadline for sending in our income tax forms. This is the beginning of Holy Week. We again relive the events of our Lord’s last week of His earthly life. This is the week we received deliverance from the bondage to sin, and the breaking of the power death holds over us. This is the week of our redemption. Even as Israel was freed from slavery in Egypt, so we have been freed from our slavery to sin. We relive the supper on Holy Thursday where our Lord instituted the Holy Communion giving us His true body and blood, our food for life. We go with Him to the agony of Gethsemane as He cried out to the Father. We stand at the foot of the cross on Good Friday as he bore the weight of all of our sin making atonement for all mankind. All of this prepared us for the glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. This is the week that gives us the greatest hope for life. When the Jews celebrate their Passover they end with the hope filled shout, “Next year in Jerusalem”. For us it is the hope of the New Jerusalem in the presence of our Living Lord.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Jesus had told his disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem , and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.”(Matthew 20:18-19) That is the journey we will follow this week through Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally to the glorious celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. But these are not simply past events that we remember and celebrate like anniversaries and birthdays. These are living truths that give us life today. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”(II C.5:18) Because of this week, by God’s grace, we have been, and are continuing to be, made new each day through faith in Jesus Christ. Remember the past? Yes. But we rejoice in the continuing work of our gracious Lord.
Coming down from the Mount of Olives Jesus had approached the city to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The people wanted a change. They had been under the thumb of Rome for many years. They knew the Scriptures where God had promised a descendant of David to sit on Israel’s throne forever. This Miracle Worker must be the one. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Their acclaim was right, but the end that they sought would not bring them what they truly needed. Only Jesus understood the path He was on. The throne that He must occupy was on a hill called The Skull. His only acclaim the taunts and curses of those looking at His bloodied body. His only scepter a reed that would bring a taste of sour wine to His dying lips. Within days of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem this true King would be dead. But this King knew something that all the others did not. It was only by His atoning death that a change could be wrought in their inner being, and only that change could give them the life they truly sought.
This is the beginning of Holy Week. It is the most sacred time in the Christian calendar. We will read and portray the events of this last week before our Lord’s death on a Roman cross a number of times in a number of ways. We remind ourselves again of all our God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Especially when reading the account of that Friday, the Friday we call Good, one is struck by the length of time Jesus was on the cross. I think sometimes, we gloss over the depth of Jesus’ physical agony. The crosses we see or wear are usually empty, and certainly we know that Jesus is alive. But the depth of His physical suffering, not to mention His spiritual agony in bearing all of our sins, is beyond our comprehension. After being deprived of all rest, beaten incessantly, struggling under the weight of the cross, and being pierced with nails, He hung there for six hours. It is so easy to say, “Jesus died for me.” But to contemplate what He really suffered causes us to stand in absolute awe, and exclaim, “He willing did this for me!”
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.