Prospect family, we are half-way through our 2019 Lenten Journey. Many of us have been reading through the “Listen to Him” daily devotions from Luke’s Gospel. Several of us are studying these words from Jesus in Bible study together. Others of you are processing His powerful statements at home with your families. We’ve all been trying to Listen to Him in worship on Sunday mornings.
And the cross of Good Friday’s Calvary is getting ever closer. It is usually at about this time each year, folks start asking, “Steve, why do we really need to cross…I’m not asking for myself, of course, but my kids/grandkids want to know.”
My stock, and doctrinally sound, answer usually attempts to unpack the necessity of “Christ’s atoning sacrifice as a payment for our sins.” We all sin and fall short of God’s glorious, holy, righteous and perfect standard. Our sin creates a relational separation, or debt, between us and a God. Our debt requires a payment, in the form of a perfect, unblemished sacrifice. But in our imperfection, we have nothing sufficient to offer. Without Jesus and the cross, we have an unsolvable dilemma. So Jesus humbled Himself, taking on human flesh. While both fully human and full divine, Jesus became the only possible sacrifice that could “atone” for our debt. Humanity had to pay a debt that only God had the funds to cover. So Jesus, covering both realities, became the only possible sacrifice that opens the door for us to have our debt with God forgiven. That’s big…really BIG! Eternal life big!
But what if that isn’t all there is to the story?What if we need the cross to become even more for us…in the here and now?What if the cross of Christ is meant to speak about both our need for vertical realignment (i.e. my relationship with our Father in heaven) AND our horizontal alignment (our relationship with one another)?
On His Journey from the Mount of Transfiguration to the cross of Calvary, Jesus says things like, ‘Go and be a good neighbor, even if it’s to someone you once considered an enemy’ (Luke 10:30-37), ‘Don’t build up storehouses for yourself…share with those in need’ (Luke 12:13-21), ‘Do everything in your power to help set others free from whatever brokenness is binding them up’ (Luke 13:10-17), ‘When you are hosting a dinner party, invite those who cannot possibly repay you, and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous’ (Luke 14:7-24), ‘Have compassion for those who have wronged you and pray earnestly for their return to a right relationship with you,’ (Luke 15:1-32), ‘Sell everything you own and give to the poor’ (Luke 18:18-30), and ‘Salvation comes to the house of those who repay those they have wronged and those in need,’ (Luke 19:1-10). Can I get a “Gulp!” from the people of God?
As Jesus speaks to us from Luke’s Gospel, he is offering a clear and incredibly challenging message: If you love God, you had better be demonstrating it through your love of neighbor.
It sounds over the top…until we remember that Jesus’ actions speak even louder than His words. For in His “resolute journey” to the cross, Jesus demonstrates His love of the Father through His perfect love of you and me. And in the cross of Christ, we are reminded to “Listen with our Eyes” to what it actually looks like to live as children within the Kingdom of God. And we are commanded to live not only according to what Jesus says, but also after the example of what He has done.
Yes, I’m convinced that there’s nothing our Father in Heaven loves more than seeing His children love one another as a sign of how much they love being a part of His family. “Father in Heaven, may thy Kingdom come, to us and through us hear on earth as it already exists up in heaven.”
<><, Pastor Steve
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love that you have for one another.” - John 14:34-35