Among the many things we can say about God, it’s clear He is not all talk. His nature of love impels Him to action, and He acts ceaselessly. We see this in Psalm 118 where the Psalmist repeats the phrase, “His love endures forever” like the chorus of a song. There’s another psalm that raises that same theme by chanting, “His love endures forever” twenty six times in as many verses. God’s love becomes a motif of everything He does in the lives of people, like the smell of cedar on a walk through a westcoast forest. As we approach Easter we will benefit by mulling over what that Easter love-work entailed for God. What did He experience and what does it mean for us?
There is a trailer out for the newly remastered Jesus film: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkv7R5twZE0&feature=player_embedded). We see a clip of Jesus’ followers joyously leading Him, mounted on a donkey, up the path to Jerusalem on a pavement of robes and palm branches. These people saw in Jesus a great leader, and presumed He would lead them out of Roman tyranny, the worst bondage since Egypt. Little did they know that within the week, their hopes for political freedom would lie in a tomb with Jesus’ dead body.
But God knows a greater bondage every one of us is born into. In Isaiah 61 He uses words like brokenhearted, captives, and prisoners to describe our desperate condition. The psalmist personifies it, foretelling the solution, “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free” (Psalm 118:5). Our bondage is that we are prisoners in the camp of death. Our anguish is that we were designed for life and our truest self knows death’s sentence is unnatural. We all like fish have flung ourselves out of water and lie gasping on the shore. We have tried to live life without God and found there is only death and dying without Him. Have you ever sensed this?
Very early in His earthly ministry Jesus summed up His objective. He went to the synagogue in His hometown Nazareth on a Sabbath, stood up among the people, and read something. It was the scroll of Isaiah written some 800 years earlier.
He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He passed the scroll back to the attendant and sat down. We’re told, “the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” I think every one of them felt the weight of the truth of the human condition in that moment. Poor. Prisoners. Blind. Oppressed. Probably heads were nodding in agreement.
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus revealed. He was saying He was the One and Only One, anointed before time began, to do a task we none of us could do ourselves. It would be a work of love, of perfect sacrifice, of replacing bondage with freedom that only He could do for us. It would be Easter.
You’d think the people would be overjoyed to hear of their imminent release. Some were. But if you know the story of Easter, you know from that moment of revelation of His purpose there would be people furious with Him. It’s like that today too. Maybe you’ve been one of them. We fish, flipping ourselves furiously on land, don’t want help. We don’t want another’s interference in our lives. We’d rather lie wheezing for breath, gills flapping uselessly, than admit we need help. Why can’t we choose to live on shore, we demand. It’s our life, isn’t it?
With this understanding we’ll begin to look at how Easter is God’s love-work on our behalf. Let’s give ourselves time to ponder it before Easter arrives. It starts with seeing our bondage to death. Unless we come to terms with that, we’ll never understand what Easter is really about. I’m praying God will help me understand. Will you?
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