Aloha Friday Message – Good Friday – April 22, 2011

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Read it online here.

Today is Good Friday. Today I am thinking about what happened on Good Friday in Jesus’ life. I am thinking about how and why it happened. I am thinking how you or I, how we, might have connections to that moment of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is not a pleasant subject, but it has been laid on my heart since before Lent began to cover this topic, the connection between Love and human depravity.

I have stated previously that Jesus certainly was not the first to be crucified and definitely not the last. There is evidence of crucifixions and other forms of torture going back thousands of years – at least as far back as the sixth century BC – and they continued to be widespread until about the fourth century AD. Crucifixion is execution by torture. The process of dying can last for days in some instances. It is a method of execution specifically designed for maximizing pain while dehumanizing the victim. Jesus died in great pain in the dark, in the cold, totally alone, deprived of freedom, dignity, and even – at the end – the company of his Father. But, despite all that, he died with faith, hope, and love. He died for you, for me, for us in the faith that God would accept his sacrifice, knowing that that sacrifice was the only hope for reconciliation for the entire world, and he held that faith and hope because he gave up everything he was out of love for God and for us. He stretched out his hands between Heaven and Earth, and gave us back our humanity, which is our oneness with our Creator.

Torture is a gruesome, evil, deliberate act of inflicting pain and suffering for the purpose of coercing, terrorizing, or punishing enemies. Sometimes it is also a form of personal gratification. I believe the Crucifixion Squads the Romans used were comprised of men – usually a team of four – who enjoyed their work immensely. Execution by torture is mentioned in many ancient histories of empires and nations including some in the Bible. Crucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of execution. There are others that fall into that category of extreme cruelty, but they are so gruesome I cannot mention them here. There is no civilization, no nation, or no empire that has not employed torture at some time in its history. Does that seem remarkable, or odd, or inaccurate? It is none of those things.

All of us have the capacity for inhumane treatment of others. That is why inhumane acts are so prevalent throughout history. I’m not really a history freak, but I do explore history a lot and in every history of humankind there are examples of torture. It’s not always horrific like crucifixion, but it is always dehumanizing. That is the penultimate purpose of torture, to dehumanize an enemy whether it is a single person, a class of persons (like slaves or enemy soldiers for example), or an entire nation (like a pogrom – so-called “ethnic cleansing”). Think of it: Uganda, Rwanda, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States (on “foreign” soil). There was horrific torture in all of those places in the 20th century!

“What makes you think that’s part of my make-up?” you ask. Beloved, we are human. We can get angry and strike in anger. We can hold a grudge. We can think hateful thoughts. We can get carried away with punishment, mistaking it for “correction.” We can be unloving and unforgiving. We can curse a loved one. We can strike out at another for the most foolish reasons. “But that is not as atrocious as torture! It’s just that we are human.” Look at what Jesus said about many other things that are “merely human.”

“You have heard it said that …” In Matthew 5:21-48 Jesus tells us that fulfilling the Law isn’t the answer. Hating your brother is equivalent to murder. Lusting after someone is equivalent to adultery. Lusting after some thing is idolatry. Swearing by or about anything is blasphemy which comes from Satan, and is not from God. Only God-given self-control centered in compassionate commitment to morality prevents us from becoming brutal, ghastly, and capable of being inhumane. It is possible, even probable, that most earthlings will never, ever do anything as monstrously cruel as torturing another earthling for any reason; but the germ for it is there in our sinfulness, and it is a mark of meekness to recognize it. It is an appalling aspect of human nature. Jesus knew that. He knew what would happen to him. He knowingly, willingly, totally surrendered to ignominious, cruel, tortuous execution on a cross. He did that because of what has been behind every single topic we’ve covered this Lent. He did it for Love.

“Greater love has no man than this, …” Look at John 15:9-17. Click on the link and read the passage. That is what was at the core of every study we have submitted in the Lenten Series. God is Love and that Love is perfected in Jesus’ sacrifice and conveyed to us in his Resurrection. It is that Love, and only that Love, which makes being a humane earthling possible. Only because of the Love of God, manifested in Christ Jesus, can we be caring, kind, gentle, meek, humble, compassionate, charitable, benevolent, good, and holy. “There is no other way?” you ask? No, there is no other way. Not so interested in being a Christian because religions bum you out? It doesn’t matter. It is still because of God’s Love and Christ’s death and resurrection that you and I have the capacity to be all those wonderful, Godly things. “How could there have been good people who were wonderfully humane before Christ, and how can people today be all of those things and more without being Christians?” Because of God’s Covenant of Love which begins and ends in the eternal love of God given to us in Jesus by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is Love that saves me, saves you, saves us from the evil that has consumed every soul that devised and committed any kind of sin – including torture.

When you listen to the reading of The Passion, think of Love. It is the greatest Love Story ever told.

Look at him. He did that for us. He did all of that for all of us. He did it because he loves us so much more than we can possibly comprehend. He can do that because he alone is Love.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved!

Share-A-Prayer

EP in Haiti – sick now for three weeks and struggling to get well. Pray for a complete healing in the shortest possible time.

FO – In complete remission! Praise God!

MC – Still in a terrible situation with her family and in-laws. Pray for resolution, reconciliation, and deliverance from the ongoing consequences of poor decisions.

TM – Ask for discernment as we pray for guidance about choosing a vocation.

“If today you hear is voice” Jesus is inviting you to share his Joy. If you have not accepted Christ as your personal savior, pray this short prayer from your heart and Jesus will answer it. If you already know the Lord and have found peace and joy in his presence, pray this prayer to recommit and reconsecrate your life to him.

Jesus, I realize now that you are God’s only begotten son. I know you chose to die in my place for the forgiveness of my sins. Thank you for loving me so much. I want to love you that much, too, and I claim you as my personal Savior. I give you my heart, my life, my soul, my all. I ask you to be in my life forever. Bless me with your Presence, and send your Holy Spirit to pray with and for me so my faith in you becomes permanent and real. I accept your love, your forgiveness, and your Salvation. AMEN

Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ, His finished work on the cross for you, and his resurrection into Glory can save you from sin.

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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