March 26, 2009


Friday and Sunday: Days of First Importance
The events of Friday’s cross and Sunday’s resurrection form the twin lenses through which every other facet of our faith is properly seen. We interpret our struggles and sin through his dying; we celebrate our hope and triumphs through his rising. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Friday: The Mark of Commitment
Jesus interprets his own death as a sign that he is a “good shepherd” and not merely a “hired hand.” His willingness to enter death is a sign of his deep commitment. The good news of Friday is not that he suffered, but that he suffered. John 10:11-18

Friday: The Response of Fear
At a basic level, Jesus’ death is the culmination of his constant challenge to the ruling religious elites in his own faith family. They are fearful of losing their status, so they plot his demise. Truth shaped by love is always a threat to those invested in a broken status quo. Acts 2:22-24, Matthew 12:9-14

Friday: The Cry of Forsakenness
Jesus’ cry of lament permits and models our own crying out to God—a sign, not of unbelief, but of firm faith in God’s willingness to hear and respond. Likewise, the widow models tenacity in prayer. Judges 3:12-15, Luke 18:1-8, Mark 15:34

Friday: The Covering of Death
Paul draws on the language of Leviticus 17:11 to argue that God is the proactive agent, not the passive recipient, in Jesus’ sacrificial death that covers and contains our sin. The problem solved by the atonement of Christ’s death is not God’s (unanswered wrath) but ours (a propensity to spread our sin). Romans 3:21-26

Friday: The Ground of Sympathy
In his forsakenness on the cross, Jesus suffers the depths of human pain, thereby he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses—“tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” For as much as Jesus makes known to us the living God, as a great high priest Jesus also makes known to God the struggle of humanity. Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-10

Friday: The Descent of Divinity
Jesus, from the heights of his status with God, freely descends on the cross to the depths of our plight. It is not his dying that makes him savior, but rather that as savior, his dying displays his true nature as one who came to serve, not to be served. He descends to us, that we might be raised up to God. Philippians 2:5-11

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Question 42. What do you affirm when you say that he "suffered under Pontius Pilate"? First, that our Lord was humiliated, rejected and abused by the temporal authorities of his day, both religious and political. Christ thus aligned himself with all human beings who are oppressed, tortured, or otherwise shamefully treated by those with worldly power. Second, and even more importantly, that our Lord, though innocent, submitted himself to condemnation by an earthly judge so that through him we ourselves, though guilty, might be acquitted before our Judge.

Question 43. What do you affirm when you say that he was "crucified, dead and buried"? That when our Lord passed through the door of real human death, he showed us that there is no sorrow he has not known, no grief he has not borne, and no price he was unwilling to pay in order to reconcile us to God.

Question 44. What do you affirm when you say that he "descended into hell"? That our Lord took upon himself the full consequences of our sinfulness, even the agony of abandonment by God, in order that we might be spared.

Question 45. Why did Jesus have to suffer as he did? Because grace is more abundant -- and sin more serious -- than we suppose. However cruelly we may treat one another, all sin is primarily against God. God condemns sin, yet never judges apart from grace. In giving Jesus Christ to die for us, God took the burden of our sin into God's own self to remove it once and for all. The cross in all its severity reveals an abyss of sin swallowed up by the suffering of divine love.

— 1998 Presbyterian Study Catechism