Monday, August 13, 2007
The Blood of the Lamb
As part of the absolute idea we talked about Jesus and the Cross. One of the people said "I believe God is love. He couldn't possibly have required Jesus' death." I pointed out that the Jewish leaders were after His blood and pretty much forced the Romans to follow along.
There was also an echo with my past. Years ago, when I was still alone, a Christian friend called me. We naturally talked about Jesus because we'd met before I did my filtering work and decided God wasn't around. Steve asked me what I thought about Jesus. I told him that the idea of blood sacrifice was abhorrent to me.
I had no better answer when the question came up Saturday. When God picked me up a few years back I got to the point where I just had to agree. I didn't understand the requirement for a blood sacrifice--"without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin"--but if I wanted God's hand in my life I had to agree.
Agreement isn't belief. Here's more proof if you want it, from someone who has a lot more experience following Jesus than I have. So, God reopened the question. We looked at the Cross again.
Why? One way I got around this question a few years ago is that Jesus is God's son. God wouldn't have sent Jesus to death if there had been any other way to bring us back to Himself. Given that, then I had to look in the Garden. We were made for eternity, and we used to walk in the Garden, in the cool of the day, with God. Think about that. Walking beside God in the cool shade below damp green plants and bright flowers. That's what God wants.
We lost it due to believing lies. God said "You will surely die." Satan said "You will not surely die. You will become as gods." He was half right. Only God can bear the burden of separating good from evil. We break down under the constant load of decisions. The conflict kills us. We've become blind to the idea that life could be any other way.
God, being who He is, wouldn't take this as the final answer. How could he get our attention? We're good at ignoring anything.
Read just about any book and somewhere in it you'll find someone's dream of immortality. Dreams of afterlife, past lives. Past-life regression. The soul lives on, even if in a cockroach, so you get another chance to try pushing that impossible rock up a hill. Life can't just... end. Yep. That'll get our attention.
One way or another everyone respects death. It's serious business. The blank wall beyond which no one knows. That doesn't stop endless speculation and the invention of religions to enshrine the speculation.
God got Abraham's attention on a mountaintop. Abraham was a man of faith, following instructions, and had Isaac ready to go when a ram showed up. Isaac got to live another day.
I don't know how I'd have felt there. I doubt I'd have had enough faith to think ahead to God's provision of a ram. Not my decision. Abraham got it, and God got his attention. Abraham became the father of a race.
So, we look at the cross... and see a decoration on the side of a church. Maybe in lovely stained glass. We gloss over the whole thing but the stains should really be, as Lu writes, "Every last one of our names has been personally carved into the cross by Jesus Himself and if we were to look closely at it we would see our own name carved into the wood and covered in blood, forever marking our redemption.." Many people look at the Cross and feel intense guilt. "I killed Jesus," they think. Not really. The Cross is the beginning of our celebration. Jesus' sacrifice tore the Temple veil so that we could, for the first time since the Garden, meet God face to face. A common reaction is "No, thanks. I'd rather do it myself."
Put your shoulder to that rock and push. Good luck.
I suppose there's room for some pride in the do-it-yourself camp. You can keep that burden. I'd rather be free, even if the freedom terrifies me because I simply can't conceive of where the path will take me. I'm used to planning and organizing and predicting every step. Personal safety required this. Jesus says "Quit worrying. Come play with me. When you get hurt, let me hold you."
This isn't the whole story. Everything is still moving around in my mind. I'm sort of getting used to how God holds the loose bits together with His gentle hands.