Good FridayGoodness always gives itself away.
He left His Father’s throne above,Charles Wesley “And Can it Be” verse 3
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me.
As we begin these three climactic days filled with reflection, awe, prayer, gratitude and worship there is a vignette which missionary friends shared with me. They served in France, which many count as one of the places most resistant to the Gospel. One day, their gregarious family was sharing a joy-filled moment outside a café. Normally, the name of Jesus was mentioned often in their mirth. A man stormed up in a rage and shouted at the shell-shocked family, “I cannot believe your audacity. Your God is no help at all. My son has just died, and I find it offensive and abusive for you to be laughing and joking when I have just gone through this tragedy!” The wife’s loving response was; “Sir, your pain must be overwhelming. We are sorry to have offended you. All I can say is that God the Father truly understands all you are experiencing. One day He watched as humanity put His Son to death for no reason. But I have found that when I take any pain to the One who loves you and me, He is able to help.”
There are passages that defy absolute interpretation. One example is II Corinthians 5:21–
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Theologians take stabs at the word ‘sin’ here. Half say it refers to our sin and that in the crucifixion Jesus entered into all of the destruction our sinfulness produced. Others say it should be translated as the ‘sin offering’ that Jesus became to pay for our sin. Both interpretations have merit but whatever the mystery of the sacrifice of the Son of God on the Cross it must mean this: that the One who alone is Good, out of pure, holy love, took into Himself everything that our sin produced (I am intrigued at the lists of tragedies we have heard: Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki, Auschwitz, the Rwandan genocide, the HIV/Aids epidemic, and 9/11 are all compared to this pandemic). It was Incarnate Goodness who gave Himself away in order to assume all the chaos which our sin produced.
We are living in perhaps the clearest picture of the purpose of the Cross we will see in our life as a world community. Moment by moment we are painfully reminded that every breath we take is not our own, we are mere vapors, that unseen, inescapable enemies can pass death to us if we let our guard down, that the blood of another who has already weathered this virus holds the promise of antibodies and possibly, life for the dying. Life comes from outside of us.
To see the ultimate goodness, the terrible glory, on a day of such badness requires the Spirit of God to open our eyes as we open our hearts. Without the Cross, there is only pandemonium. If we look to the One on the Cross and lean our whole lives into His ‘becoming sin’ for us, then He can transform all that is bad into good. Just like so many on the front lines today, Jesus ran into harm’s way for us. He risked everything to save us. But He did so not out of any anger at our stupidity. He did so because He lovingly takes our death, He unreservedly undertakes our pain. And by giving Himself away He can bring lasting good. And that is what makes today, Good Friday, a mix of sorrow and joy.
As a Salvationist of three years, I am still learning about the beauty of this wondrously productive Army which desires to offer the most good. I am overwhelmed when I think of the culture-changing good that comes from every office at NHQ. Goodness for us is only beautiful when it is useful for the full redemption of the world. The only good we can truly offer is the Life that Jesus alone is and gives. He is the Most Good and what we must do, often in the face of immeasurable odds, to share what is truly most good. The world must see His Life, His Help in us. His Goodness demands to be given away.