(from our mid-week Lenten series)
Until… until the phone rings. The robber picks it up to hear the voice of the Police Chief. He makes an offer: his life for the lives of the hostages. He will freely enter the house and sit where the infant sits. He will allow the gun to be pointed at his head. He will step into their fear, their nervousness, their uncertainty.
The robber accepts the deal. Father and infant daughter leave the house; the Police Chief enters the house. Moments later both march to and enter the getaway car. Officers stare at this object without flinching, even as night blankets the scene. Suddenly, the car shakes, shadows (from within) scuffle, two shots ring out. Policemen sprint to the battlefield to find nineteen-year-old bank robber Anthony Johnson shot dead. In the skirmish Police Chief Thomas Buntrock is discovered killed in action.
Life handed over so that others can have life set free from fear of their enemy. Intruder subdued, even though the good one dies. Life continues because of this man. Do you wake up every single day, refreshed and rejuvenated to know Jesus has done all this for you? That is why God includes these verses in his Word— so that you can return again and again to see Jesus Redeems You, buying you back from hell and making you the Father’s child.
Yes, these words here. Your God does not want you unaware of the new life Jesus secures for you. So, he chooses to bring you to the Place of the Skull (also called ‘Golgotha’). He shines a spotlight on the cross and says: “This! Jesus is stretched out to die on this!” Detail after detail of Jesus’ suffering and death stands out— not to pull out your tears, but rather to give a full realization of what sin deserves.
So you hear: From the sixth hour [12:00noon] until the ninth hour [3:00pm] darkness came over all the land. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky at noon, towering tall to light up everything on earth. Yet, on Good Friday, the sun stops shining— literally. Darkness’ thick, gloomy fingers reach down every street in Jerusalem, trickles throughout the vast Roman Empire, spills into Greece, crosses over into Egypt, and even reaches distant China! Go home tonight and, right after the sun has set, imagine this crucifixion scene. Except remember that this does not occur at night; it happens at 12:00noon.
Under that dark sky, things get even darker. After six grueling hours Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” No, “My Father! My Father! Help!” The connection a Father has with his Son is severed, cut off, separated— as if you cut a power-cord in two. That is what it means to be “forsaken” by God. Cut off. Separated. Abandoned. No one listens. No one answers. No one responds. Jesus’ shouts echo throughout this enormous, void expanse.
Perhaps the darkest matter of it all is the answer to his question. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You already know the answer. Why has God forsaken Jesus? [Because] All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
That, my friends, is the real terror of this crucifixion-sight. The Lord has laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all. My iniquity— all those times that God did not forsake me, but I forsook God!
God had done nothing wrong. He creates a perfect world and places humanity in the middle of it to rule and maintain. He lays out Ten perfect Commands— not to drain fun out of life, but rather to keep us from running out of his fold. God is your Father in heaven! The Almighty can give you everything you ask for; he fills your body with every good thing! Then he says: “Cry out to me!” God remains where he always has— in perfect relation to the world.
When I look at my heart and see its response to God’s love, well, that is when I see the many times I chose to cut myself off from God’s loving connection. I see how my heart has forsaken God. Troubles flare up, and instead of running to God, the heart feels some problems are too insignificant to bring to God. So, you try to handle your issues with your own cleverness. Fear seizes you, but you hesitate running to your Father in prayer because he does not feel so much of a Father as he does a distant stranger.
Or maybe you are tempted to live as though God has already forsaken you. That he does not watch everything you do, and so you blast off searing insults on Facebook. That you gleefully laugh at those who abuse their bodies with alcohol or that you pridefully tolerate the wicked life choices God clearly warns against. That you snuggle into bed each night, basking in the fact you have a house, money, food, clothing, cars, property— stuff— and it appears to all have come from your wit and cunning. It feels like God has simply no presence in your life.
Just in case you are thinking: “Oh, what I do is no big deal. God doesn’t care,” God plops down these verses. God does care about sin. Every transgression is nothing more than forsaking, running away from the loving expectations of a God who loves you!
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we run from what is right because we want to be God. We want the authority to determine what God is and is not capable of doing. We want the power to solve our problems and then bask in our self-praise. We want to sit on God’s throne and drink in the holy praise meant for him! If our wayward hearts want life apart from God, then God would have every right to forsake us and give us the hell for which we ask.
After all, that is what you see here. Hell— being separated from God’s love. God is present on Calvary, but he does not fill Jesus’ body with every blessing. God can hear his prayers, but he will not answer him. This is what our iniquities deserve forever.
Yet, Jesus steps before God Almighty. Your (and mine) damning trespasses are laid across him. The sentence which has your name on it has been crossed out and in its place says: “Jesus.” He carries your defiance to Calvary’s cross to fall under the anger of God.
His is the life God demands. A life that prays in every trouble (even on the cross). A life that gladly lives in line with God’s righteous commands. A life wholeheartedly trusting God to rescue and deliver. His life is more than enough to secure our release from a hellish eternity!
Jesus Redeems You! Remember what “redeem” means. To “buy back.” Our sins earn punishment in hell. The only way out of hell is perfection. So, Jesus uses his perfect life in order to pay your way out of hell. Redeemed is the word that gives you eternal life. Since Jesus has bought you back from hell, it means you have life eternal stored up for you in heaven! It means Jesus makes you the Father’s child.
Just like Chief Buntrock uses his life to free father and daughter. He sat where the infant sat. He allowed the gun to be pointed at his head. He stepped into their demise. Because of him, they are saved.
It leads me to wonder, how do you think father and daughter live today? They were given new life that one December day. Do you think they wake up each day remembering the life given for them? Do you think they have greater appreciation for sacrifice? Do you think they live evermore grateful to the police department?
Well, how do you live? You are given new life that Good Friday. Jesus uses his life to remove the reality of hell. He uses his life to buy you as a prized possession for God. Do you wake up each day remembering that Jesus makes you God’s child? Do you live evermore grateful for your Father’s guidance?
Remember that your identity is Redeemed. As God looks down from heaven, he sees you—his dear child. Yes, the Father’s child. You do not have to schedule an appointment with God as if he is the busy CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Your prayers are not hopeless shouts of “My God! Listen!” The blood of Jesus has restored God’s loving relationship with you. So, your heavenly Father listens and answers to everything you bring.
Lean closer and closer to hear your Father’s voice. Read your devotions. Start reading through this entire Bible-book of Matthew today! Gladly follow the voice of the One who makes you his child!
Jesus Redeems You! He suffers the unimaginable pangs of hell so that you never will! What joy to know your name is etched into heaven’s book! What joy to know that you live Redeemed now! That you no longer live for yourself. That you no longer want to run away from a Father who loves you dearly. That you are not locked out of the Father’s presence. Rather, because Jesus Redeems You, you live each day thanking and praising your Father for your new life.
Wake up every single day, refreshed and rejuvenated to know Jesus has done all this for you. That is why God includes these verses in his Word— so that you can return again and again to see Jesus Redeems You, buying you back from hell and making you the Father’s child.