Friday, April 10, 2009

Passing By Jesus With Lamentation

Perchance reading Lamentations 1:12 this Good Friday morning,

'Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.'

Note also 1:14:

'My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand fastened together;
they were set upon my neck;
he caused my strength to fail;
the Lord gave me into the hands of those whom I cannot withstand.'

The words 'all you who pass by' reminded me of an aspect of the calvary story which we recall today:

'And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him ...' (Matthew 27:39-41; parallel Mark 15:29-31).

The scholar within wonders whether Mark or Matthew (one copied the other) had Lamentations somewhere in the mind when writing (bearing in mind that Luke writes down a description of the mocking, but omits 'passed by').

The theologian within ponders the nature of Jesus' death as a propitiation for sin. An action, that is, which receives and transforms the full force of God's 'fierce anger' against sin.

Propitiation is non-PC these days. Yet the world is full of sin. Some of it makes some of us very angry: greed and stupidity destroying hard-earned wealth; careless consumption causing collapsing ice shelves here and great droughts there; indiscriminate killings in response to pain of being sinned against (say) through an unfaithful partner.

What do we expect God's response to sin to be? Indifference would be unloving and lead to no justice.

On the cross God's twofold response to sin was poured out: judgement and grace. To this day people pass by Jesus and mock God's work through him. For Christians, though we celebrate the achievement of the cross, Good Friday is a day when we suspend celebration and engage in lamentation that our sin came to this end.

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