What a bust! Ruth set the alarm but we were awake long before four-o’clock so we wouldn’t miss the blood moon phenomena. All evening that golden moon hung over the bay casting gorgeous light across the water and shoreline. Then the clouds moved in. Over the next two hours we did get occasional glimpses of the moon as the cloud cover would break for a few moments, but no awe inspiring event and certainly no blood redness to the moon. To Ruth and I it just looked like the shadow of a cloud was skirting across the moon very similar to what we experience each summer here on the coast. All I got for losing a night’s sleep are blood shot eyes and a bit of disappointment.
The disciples, however, were more than a bit disappointed when Jesus didn’t turn out the way they hoped he would. They were influenced by the prevailing views of their countrymen regarding the coming of the Messiah and everything that He represented and would do for the Children of Israel. The fact that He ended up being and acting very different from their expectations left them puzzled, a bit confused and very frightened. One day they had been sitting around arguing who would sit at Jesus, the Messiah’s right hand and then, instead of a coronation and a royal crown, there was a cross and a crown of thorns.
To the disciples Jesus was to return as a warrior king manifesting the power of God. He would defeat the occupying Roman army and drive them out of the Jewish homeland. Any warrior fighting on the Messiah’s side would be healed instantly by Him and prosperity, health, healing and world renown would cover the people and bring a permanent end to their suffering. Their nation would become the center of the world and the Temple would become the center of their nation as the Messiah would reign and draw all the nations of the world unto Him. It was a wonderful vision for the role of the Messiah, but it was not the truth of why Jesus came to this world and allowed Himself to be crucified by Roman soldiers.
From Genesis to Malachi God made known the plan of salvation and yet the people didn’t understand or grasp the idea that the true reason the Messiah was to come was to save them from their sins and not to free them from the Romans. When Adam sinned as the representative of mankind we, in a very real sense, sinned with him. The result was that we are separated by our sin from God and on our own, because of our sinful natures, can never cross the gulf back to Him.
If there was to be reconciliation between sinful man and Holy God then He was going to have to bring it about. Sin separates us from God because He cannot dwell in the presence of evil and if left to our own sin, we would die and be eternally separated from Him. But in Christ Jesus He brought hope, reprieve, forgiveness and eternal life for anyone who would accept it and believe in the grace of God.
However, this free gift that God offers us has a cost. For us the gift is free but to God it means that to fulfill the penalty of sin He must die. As our substitute He bears the burden of our sins upon Himself and in return we receive grace, forgiveness and salvation. Some theologians call it the big trade. God’s righteousness at the cross is accounted to us and our sins are accounted to Jesus. He stands carrying the guilt and penalty for our sins and we stand covered by the glory and wonder of His righteousness both forgiven and accepted by the Father.
But, for all this plan of salvation to happen there must be the cross. Jesus would have to take our place on that cross and pay the price for our sin and rebellion so that we wouldn’t have to. So, on what we call Good Friday Jesus went to the cross and hung suspended between heaven and earth with His arms outstretched beckoning the entire world to find salvation and new life in Him.
To the disciples the cross event was the end of their dreams of greatness and personal glory. They had placed all their hopes upon Jesus and now He hung before them in the agony and shame of crucifixion. They fled from the scene and hid themselves, frightened of the Temple authorities that might come looking to reap vengeance upon them for following Jesus. But they also ran away because of the dashed hopes and overwhelming confusion of seeing everything they believed in over the last three and one-half years fall apart. To them that Friday was anything but good. It was the end of their world and in their bitter disappointment they wondered and pondered over what went wrong and why the cross instead of a King’s crown for Jesus.
Just like the disciples you and I face discouragements when expectations and dreams fall through. Many days seem like that crucifixion Friday and we end up wondering where is Jesus, why isn’t He here helping us through this problem? Our expectations and notions of what and how Jesus should be behaving and working are often shattered in the reality of our not seeing things work out the way we planned. It is easy to become discouraged and run away when Jesus doesn’t act the way we envision Him working. We want to see Jesus as a giant Santa Clause dispensing the answers to our wish lists of favors, but He is so much more than that. He is the Savior of the world who gave His all that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life. (See John 3:16)
Yes, in all their self-pity and misunderstanding on that Friday as Jesus hung on the cross, they forgot Sunday was coming. The grave could not hold God, and on what we now call Easter Sunday the stone was rolled away from in front of the grave and Jesus rose again. Forty days later Pentecost would happen and the Holy Spirit would descend upon the disciples and their lives would be transformed into men and women who would spend the rest of their lives proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus.
No matter how dark your troubles seem you are not alone. Every day might seem like crucifixion Friday but the risen God has not left you alone. He gives you the Holy Spirit to dwell within your heart and bring you comfort and peace in the face of the storms in your life. Trust Him with all your heart and the Spirit will touch your life with power and give you assurance and hope. As God wraps His arms around you and holds you close, you are secure because those nail printed hands will never abandon you or forsake you. “No man shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life, as I was with Moses I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage.” Joshua 1: 5, 6a God bless us all this Easter.