After a week of heavy day-time negotiations (at work) and even-tide talking loudly in very noisy coffeeshops (about the Bible), my voice has called it quits and I’m laid up at home on Good Friday with the ‘flu.
In an attempt to get some vitamins into the body, I’ve very sniffily made a poor man’s/budget/frugal acai bowl (but still about S$2 (£1)): marked-down dragonfruit from the wet market blended with discount yoghurt, topped with half a banana, cheap about-to-go-off strawberries and wrinkly blueberries, chia seeds from Mustafa, and homemade gula melaka granola.
Being ill on Good Friday is a good time to consider the frailty of humankind, and our ephemeral impotent existence on this earth.
A Buddhist colleague was asking about Good Friday rituals over lunch yesterday. Her sister, a Catholic, was going on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the major Catholic churches in Singapore. Would I be doing the same?
I’d tried to explain that the locus of the Christian faith isn’t on the church buildings or church practices (or even on a holy man, the priest) but on the person of Jesus Christ and what he achieved on the cross. No merit is gained, as the Thai Buddhists believe, in visiting “holy” places or doing “good” or saying prayers.
As usual, the wisdom of hindsight kicked in today and I thought how much more could have been said. First, Christians do not belong to a BDSM cult that wallows in the blood and gore of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
But how can one then summarise the vast and multi-dimensional and cosmic work that was achieved by Jesus’ death on the cross?
Reading the chapter on Christ’s Humiliation in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics in bed today was not much help in corralling Bible truths:
- Christ’s death was not an accident of history, nor a ultimately the tragic consequence of the human cunning of his enemies. Jesus was not a human genius who made a great impact in world history. Rather, he was himself a special revelation and on a unique mission from God himself. He was handed over to those who killed him “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Jesus came to die.
- Sacrifice was instituted by God in the Old Testament as atonement – covering for sin by means of shed blood. But the bloods of goats and bulls were incomplete and needed to be endlessly repeated. This anticipated the coming of the Suffering Servant who would make himself an offering for the sins of the people. Jesus fulfils the Old Testament law regarding sacrifices – he is the true covenant sacrifice and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
- His death was payment, satisfaction of judgement, justification.
- His death was propitiation of God’s wrath.
- His death was for the expiation of sins.
- Christ is also the priest that makes that sacrifice. He is the perfect mediator between God and man because he is himself true God and true man.
- Christ’s death was ransom paid.
- Christ’s death was redemption obtained for us, complete redemption of the whole person, body and soul. The whole renewal of all things is the fruit of his obedience though we now experience it only in part, particularly as deliverance from sin’s guilt and power.
- By Christ’s death, God showed his love and his justice
- Christ’s death was also for the healing, reconciliation in our relationship with God.
- By Christ’s death, we obtained righteousness and eternal life. Christ obtained for us the righteousness and life Adam had to secure by his own obedience. Christ’s obedience returns us not to the beginning but to the end of the road Adam had to walk.
- By his death, we obtained sonship, confident access to God, gift of the Spirit, second birth and power to become children of God, sanctification, dying to sin, being crucified to the world, walking in the Spirit and in the newness of life, freedom from the curse of the law, deliverance from death and fear of death, victory over the world, resurrection on the last day, ascension and glorification, heavenly inheritance, new heaven and new earth, restoration of all things etc.
- By Christ’s death, he achieved his own exaltation. (Bavinck: “What Christ acquired by this sacrifice is beyond description.”)
The mind, whether groggy or not, is blown by the magnitude of what happened that Good Friday.
Even the rather rich lyrics of Samuel Crossman’s My Song is Love Unknown seemed insipid in this light (but still rather lovely when sung by King’s College Cambridge to John Ireland’s “Love Unknown” tune):
My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?
He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.
Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then Crucify! is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.
They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.