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Nevertheless Believe!

April 3, 2015

Good FridayCruces

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.  Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews.  Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.  The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:16-30

Today is a special reminder of Jesus’ death for us Christians. We evangelical Christians naturally focus more on the event of the resurrection. We know that Christ died on a cross, that’s why we have a cross on the top of the altar of our churches. But the cross is usually empty. Christ is no longer hanging on the cross; He died once and has risen. He is alive, he has conquered death and hell and he will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. He will definitely overcome Satan and the power of darkness, and His kingdom will have no end; it will be forever. That is what we Christians believe in.

The central part of the message for today is that which follows from the sentence pronounced by Jesus: “It is finished,” which is like saying, in simple words, ‘the work is finished’.
Jesus took on the task of coming to earth, became a man in order to be able to communicate directly with human kind and bring a message of love of God. He came to restore God’s law. He came to update the law of God and taught it in a simple way so that everyone would understand.

We do not know why he had to die. Being God, he had the power to resurrect but nevertheless did not use that power to avoid death. He could have done it if he wanted to, but he did not. And that to us humans is difficult to understand. How can it be that Jesus, the Son of God, with all his power, could not have been spared death?
And there are two reasons why not. First: because he was a human being and he wanted to live to the end his humanity on earth. He wanted to get to the end with the message that he came to bring: the message of love of God and love of neighbor.
It would have been very easy for him to call an army of angels to scatter all those who wanted to kill him. But that would have been very human of him. He was also God and wanted to show that the most important thing is love; to love until the end. Love of God and love of neighbor is the only thing that can give us a safe and eternal existence. In a sense, He wanted to see if human beings, to whom he was preaching, realized and recognized His message as the message of love of the Son of God. Apparently they did not recognize it.
The second reason why he died on the cross was because He wanted to show that the power of love is the greatest power in the universe. The power of love is greater than the power of evil. The power of God is greater than the power of the devil. That love always triumphs in the long or short run.
And those who accept God’s love, taught through His Son Jesus Christ, will live forever. Those who accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his example of love will live forever. Those with humility and spiritual enlightenment, who seek God through Jesus Christ will live forever. Those who love their neighbor as Christ preached will live forever. Those who value the things that come from God will live forever.

One can never fully understand the mystery of Christ’s death on Good Friday if the miracle of the resurrection of Christ is not accepted. Through Christ’s resurrection on the third day, we realize that Jesus was, is, and will always be Christ. It is not a matter of trying to explain scientifically why Christ died, or if he really died as well. Nor is it to try to explain scientifically, through history or archeology, if Christ was raised or not.

There are so many people seeking evidence of the resurrection of Christ. Some even become fanatical due to archaeological findings. They that lose sight of the most important aspect: that of believing that Christ is alive.
I do not know if you remember for instance, the news about the shroud of Turin that was found in the same city in Italy. Scientists have made archaeological studies to test whether this really was or wasn’t the mantle in which they wrapped Jesus after his death. There are many who believe it is and even go to see it to revere it. Whether it is or isn’t, we do not need evidence to believe that Jesus is alive. It is the same as what happened to Thomas when he said to Jesus: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, I did not put my finger into the print of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20: 25b)
And in the end Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Blessed is every one of us that, regardless of not seeing, not having lived with Jesus and unable to fully understand this day, nevertheless believes. Today, on Good Friday, in the same manner as on Easter Sunday, or any other day of the year because, for Christians, every day of the year is equally worthy for worshipping Christ, we want to tell Jesus: “I want to believe in you Lord even though I do not understand. I want to accept Jesus as my Lord and God though I do not understand. I worship you Lord even though I do not understand. I accept your commandments of love, even though I do not understand. I love you Jesus Son of God, even though I do not understand.
If we express this with our words, thoughts and feelings, it is a sign that we have accepted that Jesus is the Son of God. As a result we have the promise of eternal life given to those who accept the sacrifice of Christ.

Unfortunately we humans want to understand everything with our mind first. But not everything works this way; there are other dimensions in the universe created by God that do not have the five human senses. There are things that go beyond what is natural; they are the supernatural. When we begin to believe —and we do it with our spirit—, the supernatural and extraordinary presence of God begins to dwell in our lives. When the book of Genesis tells us, “Let us make man in our image and likeness! (Genesis 1:26) It refers mainly to the spiritual nature of God. We are God’s creation and we have a spirit; that spirit longs every day to be connected to its creator. When we don’t believe in God through Jesus Christ, our bodies can live, but our spirits are empty and barren and our bodies will increasingly become  sick.

God gives us a new opportunity today to accept the offer of salvation that Christ offers to us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God will richly bless you and watch over you and change your life if you accept this while you’re here on earth. If you haven’t made this decision yet, decide today that you want to get closer to God, the source of life, and make up your mind to move toward holiness. This Easter resurrection can be an occasion for you to obey God more. What things can you set aside that God doesn’t like for you? What things can you give to God that God is waiting for you to give Him today? Accept Christ and begin to change your life one step further every day towards holiness.
Jesus died, yes, but once, and rose again; that’s why we are here in church today. He is alive and wants to give you the life you are looking for in every way you can imagine.

—God Crucified, dead and buried. God of love, who wanted to save us by dying on the cross, forgive my sins today. Let me live on this earth as it pleases you. Let me keep your word. Let me put you in the first place in my life. But I need your blessing and I want to be risen like you, beyond my own death. Lord Jesus, receive my prayer. Amen.

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