Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wanna get away?


When I consider these scriptures, I am sure that you think about the same thing that I do.  What’s that?

Southwest Airlines!

You have seen the commercials.  The most recent, I think, is one where a man an eloquent party picks up a champagne for himself and for the beautiful blonde sitting on the sofa.  All he can see is the back of her head but she’s got to be hot, so he heads her way only to discover a long haired Afghan Hound.  The polite chuckles make their way around the room.

Oops or in the vernacular of the airline, Wanna get away?

It is one of those moments where you just want to disappear off the face of the earth.  Why?

In the case of Matthew’s account, about noon the day turned to darkness for 3 hours.  You don’t see that too often.  I have been in Iraq and Kuwait when the sky was dark for miles and miles and for several months, but everyone knew what happened there.  You set a bunch of oil wells on fire and the sky turns black.

But on Golgotha, the sky was black for another reason, one the Romans might not pick up on right away but the religious leaders should have known.

Now at about 3 in the afternoon, Jesus calls it good.  Matthew records that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  If you compare this account with John’s gospel, we see that what Jesus said was, “It is finished!”

It seems that the 3 hours of darkness has lapsed because there is a great earthquake and people can see the curtain of the temple was torn.  This was not just a little tear that could be mended by the Sabbath.  It was torn in two from top to bottom.

We like our modern-day symbolism that tells us that nothing stands between us and God now.  We don’t have to go to a priest or bring a sacrifice.  Jesus made a way—he is the way—to the Father.  The torn curtain is a fantastic symbol.

But for the moment, just consider all of this in the moment.  People are not standing around thinking, “Wow!  That’s surely a symbol that now I have direct access to God.” 

People are in the middle of unprecedented darkness—finally lifting, an earthquake, and off all the things that are notable in Jerusalem, the curtain of the temple is torn.

If that were not enough, rocks split open.  It does not say that rocks rolled down a mountain and split when they hit the ground.  It says they split.  Imagine the vibration that it took to split rocks.

On top of that, dead people are coming out of their graves.  I am not talking about a Poltergeist movie moment where coffins are popping up everywhere because the new housing development was built on an old cemetery.

People are coming back to life.  This is not a bizarre first century version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  These are holy people coming back to life.

Now at this point, you have to admit that this is not your ordinary Sabbath Preparation Day.  Just imagine being a faithful Jew.  Father and sons are out working hard to get everything done by sundown.  Mom and the girls are preparing meals for the next day, and low and behold, Uncle Bob—who has been dead for a decade—pops in and asks, “What’s for supper?  I haven’t eaten in years.”

You would think that the religious leaders might have wanted to have called a meeting to consider all of this; you would think.

But it is the Roman centurion—the captain and probably the senior officer or among the senior officers in Judea—that has the epiphany that should have come to the religious leaders.  This was an officer surely seasoned by several campaigns that extraordinary events would not rattled; yet, he was terrified.  He was terrified, but the truth did not escape him.  What was the truth?

Surely, he was the Son of God.

So we come back to Southwest Airlines.  I am in command and we just killed the Son of God.  Wanna get away?

Surely, he was the Son of God.  The only thing that the centurion missed was the tense of the verb, for the story was far from over.  We know the rest of the story.

He would be pierced by the spear but not a single bone was broken.  He would be put in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea and with a little help from a Pharisee named Nicodemus, some hasty burial preparations were made.  The body of Jesus was wrapped in some cloth and the stone placed over the entrance.  

Worried about the disciples coming to take the body, the religious leaders convinced the Roman governor to place guards on the tomb.  They even sealed it shut.

Dead is dead and nobody was going to pull off some resurrection charade now.

But the words of the centurion would prevail over the desires of the Sanhedrin.  Surely, this is the Son of God for on the third day he was not in the tomb.

He was risen from the dead.  He is risen from the dead.

Surely, he is the Son of God.

He is risen from the dead and he is Lord!

For 20 centuries now, men and women have come to the realization that Jesus is the Son of God.  Today, we celebrate not only that he is the Son of God, but that in demonstration of God’s great love, Jesus became the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

He became the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Our sin had sentenced us to death but he died in our place so we could once again be in right standing with God.  Long ago, Adam and Eve had unencumbered fellowship with God.  For a very long time, sin interfered with that communion, but sin has no such power now.

And death is defeated as well.  When Jesus rose from the grave, he conquered death not only for himself, but for us as well.

Surely, he is the Son of God!

Amen!


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