“After this, Jesus knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28-30 ESV)
This weekend as we meditate on the Crucifixion and the Resurrection on Easter, the significance can easily be lost among the familiarity of the story and believing that Easter was nothing more than a historical event that happened nearly 2000 years ago. We become detached from it. In a way it can easily be lost to us and remembered like other events in a history textbook.
The Relevance of Easter
But Jesus’ death and resurrection is not only still relevant today, it is the path that leads the way, the light that guides us across our dark nights, and the hope that shatters the tragedies that are inevitable in our lifetime. Jesus is not just a good teacher. He is not a leader who simply came to give us more rules to follow and to teach us how to be good. Jesus abolished the rules of the law by fulfilling them!
The Gift of Grace
If you simply want a set of good moral standards to follow, there’s a whole handful of other religions to choose from. But frankly they all teach the same thing…do. When Jesus said, “It is finished” he was telling us…done. Absolutely done. Not a little bit. Not mostly. Paid in full. This is the one factor that divides Christianity between all other religions. It is the reason that Jesus claims that he is “the way, the truth, and the life”. Ultimate truth is divisive. It forces us to make a choice. If you believe that all religions are relatively the same, you don’t get it. This is not a statement of arrogance. It is an invitation to find out the Good News that Christianity offers. The law has no chains on us anymore, but I think the majority of us (myself included) still keep trying to put shackles back on.
It is grace that separates Christianity from all other faiths. It is grace that nullifies any other religion. Not better, not worse..irrelevant. That doesn’t mean that people of other faiths are bad people; it simply means they are lost trying to fight a battle that no human being can win…except one. Jesus Christ was the only man who perfectly lived a good life. You and me, we’re flawed. By our own power we can never work or way towards God. But we still try, don’t we?
Quit Trying To Earn
We work day in, day out hoping that one day we will feel worthy. One day we will do enough “good” deeds to deserve a good reward. But someday never comes. For thousands of years human beings have been trying to earn their way and each and every one of us falls short. And somewhere in our heart we know it. We hate it. And often times it causes us to run away from God or pretend he doesn’t exist.
But this weekend, we are reminded that there is another way. Jesus Christ, God himself, knew we were not capable of paying the debt that needed to be paid. He could have simply ignored us and let us accept our fate, but he didn’t. He became a man and willingly suffered so that we might have life. On that cross, Jesus bore the world’s sin so that we didn’t have to feel condemned and unworthy any longer. He paid the price so that we could stand tall and approach the throne of grace and accept the gift owed – not by our own work, but by Jesus’ blood.
We can meditate on those last words of Jesus: “It is finished”. We can meditate and have confidence when we sin that we have a father that loves us and a Savior who has already paid the price for our sin. We do not need to be afraid. This is not an excuse to sin. Grace is a freely given gift that stirs our hearts to repay that gift with righteousness. If you feel grace is the freedom to sin without consequence, it is very likely you don’t yet understand what God did for you.
Just as Jesus was resurrected, so too must we be reborn in spirit. We have our own death and resurrection to participate in. By dying to ourselves, we remove the shackles of human works and the exhaustion of trying to earn our salvation. Jesus says it is already done. There is nothing that you have to do but believe in him. We drudge through life trying to do good deeds out of fear and pride, but what Jesus did was show us another way. We accept the gift of grace which is freely given and out of joy serve and submit to God with love and gratitude.
The price of sin was paid nearly 2000 years ago. Are you still trying to make payments on a loan that’s already been paid? The word “gospel” literately means good news. Are you thrilled at learning the Good News of the Gospels? If not, I invite you to read them again. The reason that the disciples were so excited about this Good News was that they got it. We no longer have to pay what we owe! God himself loves us so much that he was willing to pay the debt! Easter is not a “past” event. It is a yearly reminder of the freedom Christ’s love bought us on the cross. That freedom was bought with a heavy price; don’t let it be squandered by putting yourself back under the prison of the law.
-Post Written by Justin Farley
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photo credit: Lamb of God 52 via photopin (license)