Friday, March 29, 2013

The Most Important Day in History: Reflecting on Good Friday

<!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]

Several days ago I did an extensive Google search on the "most important day in history". The answers were obviously very subjective, but the results were fascinating. Most were centered around war: the end of the American civil war; the birth of the atomic age at Hiroshima; July 4th, 1776. But also named were events like the invention of the light bulb, Henry Ford's first Model A or that great moment that Al Gore invented the Internet. And of course there were some, albeit few, who put religious events at the top: the conversion of Emperor Constantine, the birth (rebirth?) / enlightenment of the Buddha, Luther's challenge to the church at Wittenberg or the advent of the King James Bible. But fewer yet referenced the life of Christ or, to specify a day, his crucifixion as being "the most important". 

A few years back, writing for Newsweek, editor Jon Meacham called history's "two most significant events the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth." It would be difficult to argue. 'Christian Post' columnist Lane Palmer laid it out like this:

"If Jesus had never been born, the world would be a much more primitive place where women are slaves of free men, children are sacrificed to idols, and the concepts of charity and love are all but missing from society. If Jesus had never been born, education and science would look very different and much more primitive, and most likely the United States of America would have just been an unrealized historical dream. But worst of all, if Jesus had never been born, there would exist only one spiritual destination for our eternal souls; a dark and tormenting place where we would be eternally separated from God.  Jesus Christ came to earth as a man to live a perfect life, die a horrible death, and rise from the grave so that the penalty for the world's sins would be paid in full…and eternal life made available to anyone who puts their faith in Him for salvation."

Palmer's summary could be expounded on ad-infinitum. For all of the liberal, revisionist history that the church of Christ receives nowadays, the truth when honestly weighed and considered is too dark to even imagine. Christianity has far and away fed and clothed more poor, liberated more oppressed and done greater good than any other movement in human history. And of course for the believer, Christ's death secures our redemption from sin and reconciles us to God. 
And it all began on that horrible day that this obscure Jewish rabbi submitted himself to the most humiliating and excruciating torture ever devised by fallen mankind ('excruciating' comes from the Latin word 'excruciates' that literally means, "from the cross"). 

Jesus' subsequent resurrection so shocked and emboldened his followers that this ragtag group deserted their former lives and rushed to spread the news (Gospel) of salvation to every corner of the Roman Empire. History tells us that, except for one, all of Christ's disciples fully embraced horrific deaths and considered it their highest honor to die for the message that their Messiah commanded them to preach "to the ends of the world".

Good Friday. It is infinitely good for us now. But on that day, roughly 1985 years ago, Jesus suffered "the most wicked fate, on the cruelest creation of man".

So today, we have the opinions of bloggers and historians, and of believers and non-believers. But what about scripture? Is there solid, biblical merit in declaring this day "the most important day in human history"? Should it reside in our hearts and affections as paramount above all of our other holidays and traditions, including Christmas, or maybe even Resurrection Sunday?

The last survivor, the Apostle John, imprisoned on the island of Patmos, his body old and broken from years of torture, was gifted a terrifying vision. Strange, enigmatic and mysterious, the aged "disciple whom Jesus loved", under the command of Christ himself, applied pen to parchment and scribed for us "The Revelation of Jesus Christ".  Within these pages are revealed the end of human history and the consummation of the ages, when Christ finally wipes away every tear, death is vanquished and He makes all things new.

Beginning in Revelation chapter 5, we are presented with the vision of a Lamb, and the prophet says:
"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
"Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
 and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
 be praise and honor and glory and power,
 for ever and ever!"
What follows after this is the entirety of the book of Revelation calling Jesus Christ, almost exclusively, "The Lamb of God", "the Lamb who was slain," and proclaiming the redeeming power of "the blood of the Lamb." All of this is the culmination of what began with Moses in Egypt, where the blood of the sacrificial lamb was the salvation of the Hebrews, as Death himself passed-over the Jews and slew the firstborn of every Egyptian household.

And then came Jesus. His cousin John the Baptist, believed to be a seer prophet who could see into the spirit realm, saw him by the Jordan river and declared, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" At the apex of human history, as the final atonement for sin and separation from the Creator, the Lamb that God Himself provided willingly became the final sacrifice.
Good Friday is a holiday that scripture tells us will be celebrated for all of eternity, as forever and ever we see our great and victorious King as God sees Him, the slaughtered Lamb, who is:

"Worthy to take the scroll
   and to open its seals, 
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
 from every tribe and language and people and nation"  -Revelation 5:9 
The verdict has long been established. The resurrection of Easter (and our subsequent resurrection from death) is the vindication of Christ for what he suffered.  It is God's endorsement of the perfect sacrifice of His Son. But it reminds us that the Word of God and all of eternity declare and resound with the echoes of "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth." 

It is and forever will be the most important day in the history of the world. 

"It was my sin that held him there
 Until it was accomplished
 His dying breath has brought me life
 I know that it is finished"
Oh come, let us adore Him!

No comments:

Post a Comment