Tag Archives: crucifixion

A Prize for the Best Bad Guy

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But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust, wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over the truth.  Open your eyes and there it is!  By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see…  So nobody has a good excuse.

What happened was this:  People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.  They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.  They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”  It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.  And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshipped the god they made instead of the God who made them…

Worse followed.  Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either- women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men- full of lust.  And they paid for it, oh how they paid for it- emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.  And then all hell broke loose:  rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing.  They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.  Look at them:  mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-haters, bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags!  They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives…   And it’s not as if they don’t know any better.  They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face.  And they don’t care- worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Sound familiar?  If Romans 1:18-32 doesn’t describe our modern era, then I don’t know what does.  We applaud those who behave the worst.  We turn our world upside down to accommodate deviance and perversion.  We shame and scold traditional values.  We tolerate what God has called intolerable.  And we are surprised when all hell breaks loose.

We need to repent as a nation and come back to God.  Only through repentance will we ever find satisfaction with this life.  This is why we needed a Savior.  We needed to be saved from our own wretched, filth.  We needed to be saved from the bad choices we made.  It is because we CHOSE SIN that we are destined for hell.  And Jesus died to rescue us from that horrible consequence.  

Thank you Jesus for dying for our sins.  We are astonished at our own sinfulness.  We are astonished that you would still love us.  We honor you as God and put you in your rightful place above all.  We crown you with thanks and worship!  Good Friday is indeed good… for us.  

The Effigy of Jesus

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The Effigy of Jesus

We went to Cartago to watch the Catholic processional on Good Friday. The Cartago presentation is unique in Costa Rica because they use live actors for most of the characters they depict. They use effigies of Jesus, the two thieves and the Virgin Mary only. They use one effigy for when Jesus carries the cross and a different one when he’s crucified between the two thieves. It’s quite elaborate. And the bishop gave a good salvation message at the scene of the crucifixion.

Paying Back God

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This week is Holy Week, the week before Easter.  We live in a Catholic country here in Costa Rica.  That means that this holiday is most certainly “owned” by the Catholic traditions.  On Friday a group of us intend to go to Cartago to view the dramatic processional of the Catholic church, take pictures, and ponder the differences between the Catholic celebration of Holy Week and the nearly non-mention of it by the Protestant churches here.

Effigy of Jesus carrying his cross

So in preparation for our excursion I’ve been studying up on the Catholic Stations of the Cross (which is what the parade will depict).  There are 14 traditional stations but only 8 of them have any foundation in the Biblical account of the Passion of Christ.  The others find their origin in legends, local artifacts and human traditions that have grown up around the Crucifixion story.  Wikipedia says “The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditation upon the chief scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death.”  Sounds good to me so far.  Especially considering that even most modern believers rarely read their Bibles and centuries of believers had no Bible of their own- the visual story is good.

But here’s the kicker, “In the Catholic tradition, the meditation is often performed in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His passion.”  And “Pope Pius XI called the Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ a duty for Catholics and referred to them as ‘some sort of compensation to be rendered for the injury’ ” of the sufferings of Jesus.  Let that just sink in for a minute.  Can a human ever pay back the Son of God?  Ridiculous!  I’d like to add that Jesus never even asked for compensation from us, He never even wanted us to pay Him back.  That is the whole idea behind the Son of God paying for our sins with His life- we can’t ever pay for our sins.  He offers forgiveness from sins as a free gift- it can’t be earned or deserved.

To say that Jesus wants or needs us to compensate him for even one injury that he received on that bitter sweet day is to completely cheapen His entire sacrifice and elevate ourselves to the position of benefactor instead of acknowledging what we truly are- helplessly lost, unashamedly rebellious, irreparably broken, unworthy of notice, wallowing in our own filth, naturally unfaithful, prone to wander, never good enough.  We devalue Christ’s sacrifice when we try to pay Him back.

Think of it like this.  Suppose you bought a really great birthday present for your wife, something that she had been needing and wanting ever since you first met her.  You knew this was going to be the gift to top all gifts.  And when she opened it instead of the wild expressions of exuberance and joy- the thanks with deep gratitude that you anticipate- she got out her check book and said, “Honey, that must have cost you a lot, what do I owe you?”  You would be so hurt and offended that she didn’t realize that it was a GIFT, a free gift, not given with the intention of ever being paid back.  You just gave the gift because you LOVED her, not because you wanted or needed to be paid back!  Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross is just like that- He gave himself to us out of His Love for us and never wanted or asked for us to try to pay Him back.  He just wants us to accept the gift (of forgiveness of sin), be really excited and happy about it, and to love him in return.  It’s just that simple.

So on Good Friday when I watch Saint Veronica wipe the mud from the face of Jesus with her veil and receive the “true icon” of his image burned into the fabric I will be thinking of the purity and simplicity of the greatest gift ever given.  And I will humbly and joyfully thank my Father in Heaven for giving me exactly the thing that I needed and wanted- the perfect GIFT- His only Son.  I love Him because He loved me first.