Natural Benevolence / Good Friday Thoughts – April 10, 2022 (100/365)

I was supposed to make this 100th post a nice one, but the way things are right now, well… I just need to get it done. I’m not feeling so good, and I’m not feeling so hot.

I’m not sure I adhered to anything I mentioned yesterday about how I was going to handle our recording for Good Friday; Instead, I went ahead and pulled my material from the following three verses:

Philippians 2:5-8

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Before I jumped into this verse into particular I mentioned that the theme we were going for, at least for the month of April, was to recognize different aspects and perspectives of the grace of God. After the first Sunday of the month we successfully linked how we ought to love one another as Christ loved us, and we were to be gracious and help one another, just as Christ Himself was gracious and helped us, even when we didn’t deserve it. In today’s message, we continued down that route by setting the expectation that when we actually do the same thing – that is, to help others as Christ helped us – then people would naturally draw near to us, just as Christ was greeted by the multitudes with palm branches and coats on the road approaching Jerusalem. The point was that the grace of God not only enables us to show grace to others; but also, as we celebrate this grace that God has given us by way of helping others, people would draw near to us as well.

With these verses, starting with Philippians 2:5-8, I intended to show how the grace of God was what kept Christ together, and not only barely making it but actually thriving, even in His crucifixion. These verses point out something I’ve been saying for quite some time – that the Creator of the Universe loved us so much that He absolutely ’emptied Himself’ that is, first, stepped out of infinite and eternal glory, to be born within the confines of time and space, in the likeness of man. Second, as a human, He humbled Himself – He emptied Himself further by becoming obedient to the point of death; as Christ said in what we’re calling the Holy Communion, His body as bread was ‘given’ to us. This means His life was not taken from Him without His consent – no, He willingly lay down His life, His body for us. Third, not only did He lay down His body, but the manner of how this Messiah was slain was one of the most painful forms of execution at the time, literally ripping into His body, mind, reputation; simply put, all aspects that could be impacted were impacted.

And one would think that all this was a great deal to overwhelm Christ, but Isaiah 53:11 mentions He has something greater than the pain in His mind throughout the entire ordeal:

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Beyond the pain and the anguish, the fear, anxiety, and misery, Christ knew that He offered Himself up to bear our iniquities, that many would be accounted righteous. Through all that was tormenting Him from the outside, and all that was ripping Him apart from the inside, He was looking forward to the completion of the Ministry of Reconciliation, by way of His body and blood given for the world to be saved, and brought back into right standing with God. He was willing to go through all He foreknew, because beyond the pain of this reality was everlasting life ready to be poured out upon one and all who would believe in Him.

Finally, we wrap it all up with Hebrews 12:1-2, specifically the last part.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Christ was obviously in a rollercoaster of emotions, which I believe was part of the iniquity He was bearing for our sake; In Gethsemane we are fond of quoting where He says, ‘Take this cup from me, but not my will, by Your will be done.’; I think it’s pretty dangerous for us to apply the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ slogan in these moments, because more than God’s will being what we assume is total control over even the most minuscule of our actions, it’s really for none to perish, but for all to believe in Christ and to be saved. I’m not trying to downplay Christ’s literal anguish (I still believe in Him sweating blood), but I am trying to say that this was one of the many emotions that were going through His head.

Consider that in addition to the trepidation, there was also joy. Even in these turbulent, fearsome moments, Christ was willing to endure the greatest of pains, Christ was willing still to lay His life down as a sacrifice, because there was certain joy set before Him, in that the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon all who would believe, and we would also call God, ‘Abba, Father’; As He would, we would also be able to run, approach the throne of grace boldly.

The overall point I wanted to present in all this is that if love would make us do crazy things, Christ and His finished work, particularly His willingness to endure the cross – Christ would certainly have us inspired to take even greater bounds at our expense, just the will of God to be fulfilled in and through each and every one of us in the body.

Any sacrifice we would make to help others would feel less of a loss, and more of a celebration of what we have gained through Christ. We do not deny the pain we go through personally, but we see this in the light of the superior everlasting life we have in Christ, which would have us move and have our being in the grace of God, rather than trying to satisfy some obsolete mindset that would have us short sighted. Our service would be more genuine, because we look beyond ourselves, as Christ did.

I’m not sure if this is making any sense, but that’s pretty much all I had in mind for tonight. This grace brings us to genuine service to others, even to the point of selfless sacrifice.

Let’s all have a great week ahead. I’ll keep doing better.

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