Monday, February 07, 2011

Comforts from the Cross - Day 28

Today, I am sharing the entire day's reading. It was too hard to try to pick and choose parts of it. It is long compared to my normal blogs, but so worth the read.

Passed Over

On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. -Zechariah 13:1

Today is just like every other day. Yes, there is some commotion in the temple. Yes, there is to be an execution. But, after all, this Jerusalem; those Romans aren't squeamish about punishing us Jews. Yet our religious leaders aren't the sort of people who let things get out of hand, especially not now, with a city so full of Passover pilgrims. yes, this is just another day in just another city under Rome's harsh rule. Just another day, remembering our slavery in Egypt and straining to be free from our slavery to Rome. Just another day...

As we progress through our Passover celebrations, we recall the prophecies. But will Messiah come? Will a deliverer rescue us as Moses did so many thousands of years before? We eat the Seder meal. The youngest child asks the question, "Why is this day different from any other day?" and the rote answers are recited. This is the day we remember our deliverance from slavery. These are the days we let hope live again. But is this Passover somehow different?

Yes, we are prepared. We've chosen a young lamb for our celebration one without blemish, three years old. We've slaughtered it, drained its blood, and painted our doorposts. We are careful not to break one bone. We will eat the meal, the lamb, the unleavened bread, the sweet wine. We will sing together, dip our bread in bitter herbs, remember our slavery, rejoice because death passed over us and struck down our enemies' beloved sons. Our tradition is beautiful; it brings us hope.

He has walked through our towns for three years. He has touched lepers, invited children to crawl up into his lap. He has invited us to come to him, and we would have, but there was that shocking saying, "You must eat my flesh and drink my blood." Our leaders warned us, "If you follow Him, we'll put you out of the temple." His followers were untaught fishermen and tax collectors. Surely the true Messiah wouldn't associate with such as these We thought perhaps He was the One, but no. He is just another religious zealot in a long line of religious zealots. And now He is going to die. Oh, well. Neither we nor the Romans could have someone going around claiming to be God, claiming to be King.

But on this day, in the heart of Jerusalem's power, Pilate's jaded conscience is strangely trouble. "I find no guilt in him" (John 18:38).

"If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend" (John 19:12).

"What have you done, Jesus? Answer me! Don't you know I have authority to punish you?"

"You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:11).

Yet even more troubled, Pilate sought to relieve his own distressed conscience. "When Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.' And all the people answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'" (Matthew 27:24-25)

Now, in the streets, they thrust the tree upon Him. He stumbles. "You don't think we're going to carry your cross for you, do you?" the soldiers mock. "This is your execution. Not ours."

"Let someone else carry it for Him. We don't want Him to break a bone before He climbs up The Skull."

Now on the hill. "Look at Him. Hanging there, naked; a mockery. The 'I Am'? Hardly. If you're God, then come down here and prove it. Be careful not to get too near. We don't want to be defiled for the celebration."

"Here, dip this rag in bitter wine for Him."

The guards receive a command, "Kill the prisoners now. These superstitious dogs don't want their land defiled by letting them hang here overnight."

"This one seems to be dead already. I will make sure."

"One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (John 19:34).

"The beloved Lamb is beaten, mocked, cursed, pierced. how does His Father respond?"

"I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and please for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn." (Zechariah 12:10)

Our sins call for unimaginable wrath and fury. We're religious; we delight in our traditions. We love feeling chosen, righteous, separate from Gentile scum. Yes, pass the bread, answer the questions, remember the deliverer, feel good. But we're also Roman oppressors. We, too, relish opportunities to mock the weak and scorn sufferers. We gleefully watch as this man Jesus stumbles down the street. We would have enjoyed taking a crack at Him, too.

Our sins call for unimaginable wrath and fury. How does He respond? Will he pour out wrath? No, He pours out a spirit of grace and mercy. Grace and mercy for us all--for Jew and Gentile--to repent. "Why is this day different from any other day?" Because we have seen our sin and been given grace to repent.

On this day, this marvelously different day, God applies the blood to the doorpost of our soul. This precious blood springs from the found in His Son's bleeding side. Again He sees blood. Again He passes over His chosen ones.

We haven't prepared for this. Our souls are full of self-righteousness, our hearts infected with leaven; our consciences have grown callous. We aren't really looking, waiting, hoping for our Deliverer. We're simply enjoying our tradition, living each day as it comes to us.

On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleaness. (Zechariah 13:1) 

On this day in Jerusalem a fountain has been opened for Jew and Gentile alike. It flows and flows, on and on, from His pierced side and covers all our sin. It covers our religious sin. It covers our irreligious sin. In one stroke, the Father has opened this fountain and with it He washes away all our sin and uncleaness. Our souls are cleansed by this water, atoned for by this blood. He opens a fountain that will never run dry; this well is sufficient for us all. We have pierced Him. He has taken that blood and water and made us His own.

Dear friend, the day you are facing may seem like any other day: uneventful, business as usual, nothing to celebrate. But ask yourself, what makes this day different from any other day? Then look on Him whom we have pierced and remember, there is a fountain opened to cleanse you from all your sin and uncleanness. "For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) Yes, let us celebrate this day that is different from every other day. Let us celebrate Christ, our Passover Lamb, today.

(Comforts from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Day 28, Passed Over, pp. 123-126)

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