Easter at Ferndale

Posted on 21 April 2014
The Good Friday march of witness to the Café and the Easter celebration took place again this year.

Stephen gave two short addresses. In the first, entitled, MAKING SENSE OF GOOD FRIDAY, he commented:
At the climax of the Good Friday story, lies the most awesome and unfathomable utterance in human history.
The ‘Son of God’ in the extremity of agony and at the point of death, feels abandoned by the very one with whom he had lived in perfect harmony and mutual commitment from eternity past and whom he believed he could always depend upon: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?‘ Was there any sorrow like this sorrow!

Yet, eight hundred years before, the prophet Isaiah, when speaking about this event, said ‘Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him and cause him to suffer’!!!
Now we are, of course, talking about God. This pleasure cannot therefore have been the pleasure of the sadistic. It can only refer (but at a far sublimer level) to that grim satisfaction gained through personal agony and self-sacrifice by which some greater aim is selflessly achieved. It is the mutual sacrifice of the lover and the beloved for the sake of others.

This is precisely how Isaiah viewed it. He continues ‘the LORD makes his life a guilt offering’. The prophet recognises that at the heart of the human condition (our condition) lies our filthy guiltiness in the presence of a God who is unutterably pure; a filthiness which destroys every possibility of friendship with him. Traditionally, a guilt offering is the presentation of a substitute who bears the penalty for our guilty verdict so that we are acquitted.
This explanation alone makes sense of Good Friday and Christ’s words on the Cross. Such is the human condition that God’s love must triumph over his justice: but only by the mutually agonising self-sacrifice of God and his Son in the Son’s death on the Cross as our guilt-bearing substitute: the One who alone restores us to fellowship with God.

This is why, today, Christians carry or wear the Cross as the emblem of victory: his victory for us. This is why the Cross lies at the very heart of all true Christianity. The Cross alone gives secure hope in a darkened world.

On Easter Sunday he added an address, entitled UNRAVELLING THE EASTER STORY, he added:

When Isaiah the prophet predicted the death and resurrection of Jesus (about eight hundred years before they occurred) he said something quite remarkable. He said, in Isaiah 53:11, that Jesus would ‘see the labour of his soul and be satisfied’.

What then did Isaiah mean? The word ‘labour’ implies something painstakingly planned and effected… and reviewing this ‘labour’, Isaiah says, would bring Jesus the profoundest sense of satisfaction. 

What, then, provoked such a sense of well-being in Jesus? The answer appears to lie in the previous verse (10) where Isaiah says that: ‘he [Jesus] will see his offspring’.  There is something very special, even unique, in being a parent or grandparent. Blood is generally thicker than water and there is the inestimable privilege of being able to pour out our love on one who is ‘bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh’. For Jesus, then, his satisfaction would lie in completing a task that would enable him to lavish his love upon his ‘family’.

But how was this family established? What would he do to make it possible for him to have a family upon whom he could expend such love? The answer, says Isaiah, is that as a ‘guilt offering’ he would ‘bear their iniquities’ and ‘justify many’ (10,11).

Simply put, Isaiah says that human beings (whether they want to believe it or not) are morally diseased at the core of their being (this is what the strange word ‘iniquity’ means!); we reveal a ‘bent’ to evil – a child never has to learn to be naughty! The consequence of this is that we stand condemned before the unutterably pure God. We are ‘guilty’ as charged in the most exalted of all courtrooms!

However, by means of Jesus’ ‘labour’, specifically his death, justice is achieved and we may be acquitted because of his ‘offering’ of himself to bear our punishment and in our place.

Knowing this, Isaiah says, is a privilege indeed for it brings us the blessings that his death was designed to secure. But more than this, Jesus is delighted to have completed this work for those whom he loves as (usually) only a parent can!

Thus Isaiah reminds us of the sobering reality of our human condition… but he also celebrates the incredible lengths to which God was willing to go to make us members of his beloved family. Small wonder that, as Christians, we celebrate Easter… indeed Easter should be our daily delight!

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