Friday, April 2, 2010

The worst, best day

It was sunny and hot today.  Not a cloud in the sky, with a blazing sun overhead exactly at noon.  The temperature was somewhere between 86 and 95 degrees Farenheit.  The sky was as blue as the eyes of my middle child.  Nineteen hundred and eighty-two years ago today, that is, the sky was that blue.  Today in Jerusalem, where the temperature really was 30 degrees celsius, but felt like 34 (according to Accuweather), which is 86 and 94 F respectively (and don't worry, I didn't do that math myself; that whole 9/5s + 32 stuff is beyond me...if I'm even remembering the equation correctly), I'm not sure the sky is bright blue.  Pollution has changed the color of the sky in most other urban centers, so I'm guessing the sky there is kind of a dingy flat color, with barely a tint of blue in it.  I haven't been to Jerusalem, so I could be wrong, but that's my guess.  But back then, back in the year 28 AD or so, that sky was blue, even in the heat of a spring day.

When Jesus lay on His flayed back on a rough wooden cross, while his arms and legs were stretched into position and nails pounded through his very human flesh, he stared at an azure sky.  Yes, azure--the exact color of an unclouded sky.  "The heavens declare the glory of God," the Psalmist says.  The heavens that Jesus last glimpsed on his dying day, while nails sharpened by our sin pierced his skin.  The distance between the two sides of His family tree, the distance between the two sides of Himself was clear in that moment. Well, that distance had been growing ever since He gave Himself up to God in the Garden of Gethsemane.

You know that moment, don't you?  That sweating blood moment where He made a certain plea that must have broken His Father's heart not to grant:  "If You're willing, let this cup be passed from me...nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." The same Father who sent an entire angel chorus to set up camp to sing His Son's first Birth-day chorus, the Father who heard His Son tell Mama and Step-Papa Joe, "Didn't you know I'd be in my Father's house?"  The Father who said the first time Jesus stepped out in public, "This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him,"  If you're a parent, even a little ol' earthly parent who make more than their share of mistakes along the way, you know how it feels when your kid hurts.  And to know that the hurt in front of this son--this Beloved Son--will separate You from Him for the first time in eternity, will kill Him, will destroy Him, how that must have made God wept that dark, black Friday when the sky was azure, and the sun was golden.  It was the worst day in history--not only on earth--but also in heaven.  Wasn't it? Wasn't it?

But also the day for which Jesus had come.  The day for which they'd planned, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--God in three in One--since that first Garden.  Yes, this Friday was always coming.  The betrayal by Judas, even his unbelievable kiss in Gethsemane.  The monkey trial of the pharisees and the washing-his-hands-of-the-whole-thing by Pilate, who'd never have a good night's sleep the rest of his life.  The near rioting screams of the crowd that freed a murderer and condemned a Savior.  All of it had always been on its way.  Jesus had spent His entire life on earth with His face 'turned toward Jerusalem.'  And God in Heaven, sad as it made Him, turned His back on Jesus, just as they'd planned--when the sacrificial Lamb of God was nailed to a cross against a clear blue sky on a verdant spring day before most of eternity's population had ever even lived.

Look at Him hanging there on that worst, best day.  The day the sky was blue, then the sun went dark. Dark in fact, and dark with our sins on that worst, best day.  Through out history, this day has been known both as black Friday and Good Friday, and how true both names are. The azure sky went as black as the sin that stained the Good.  The singular, true Good.  He hung there, done for with our sins.  The worst, best day. Ever.  And God in His heaven, with the angels weeping as loudly as they'd sung at His birth, let Him. Of course they cried as loudly at that death as they'd sung at His birth.  Of course they did.  Their cries, God's cry--it blackened the cry and rent the temple...because God Himself was dying.
"It is finished!" The Man on the Cross said.  What He'd come for.  It was finished.  FOR US.  Finished. 

Thank God.  Yes, Thank God.

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