I will never cease to be amazed at the extent to which well-meaning people will go to justify their agendas. I do not remove myself from that lot, for we are all sinners, “apt to wander, oft to stray.” It’s just amazing to read about ourselves and more so, when that reading is from centuries, even millennia past.
This morning was no different, as I read again from Matthew, still processing Chapter 26, with the various political and religious power players circling their wagons on The Christ. From the Chief Priests, the most informed of scriptures yet the most blind, to the brutal Roman soldiers to whom this God-man was given over for execution. The latter were very adept at lining the streets, if need be, with crucified criminals and even the innocent at times, to get across the point of who was in control. We have seldom experienced such blatant cruelty in America, at least not since the lynching days of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, it seems that more and more, religious zealots, regardless of which major Abrahamic religion one may represent, are hard at work with just such possibilities in our nation. Meanwhile, the majority, most often the more moderate, set back and says little; or worse yet, stir the drama that often surrounds those who do speak out; arm chair quarterbacks. We may not be as far along as we think given all that has happened of late, particularly with a new generation of leaders, unwilling to allow America to act out institutional racism, protestant privilege or classism, without challenge. Edmund Burke is credited as saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I do not want to be counted in that lot at the end of the day, whether in local politics, broader racial issues or the proclamation of the gospel, the love of Jesus Christ. As I said in the last blog entry, I am amazed at how God, in the flesh of Jesus Christ, could carry out his own execution, then preserve His body in a tomb preselected and announced by the prophets… “A large percentage of Messianic prophecies are found in Isaiah, including prophecies about Jesus’ virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1-2), lineage (Isaiah 9:7, 11:1, 11:10), announcement by a forerunner (Isaiah 43:3-5), disfigurement (Isaiah 52:14, 53: 2), rejection by His people (Isaiah 53:1-3), voluntary atoning death (Isaiah 53:7-8), scourging and crucifixion (Isaiah 53:5-12),burial in a borrowed tomb (53:9) an appeal to non-Jewish people (Isaiah 11:10).1 Surely, there is a message in here for those who would both neglect justice for the sake of politics or remain silent in the face of such? Particularly of concern should be those who name the name of Christ, given His brutal demise. Of course, He not only died but as was also prophesied, rose again, as a testimony of who truly is in control! “My flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:9-11). Finally, I’ll employ this old hymn, whose words perhaps speak louder than my own:
Jesus, whose blood so freely stream’d,
To satisfy the law’s demand;
By thee from guilt and wrath redeem’d,
Before the Father’s face I stand.
To reconcile offending man,
Make Justice drop her angry rod;
What creature could have form’d the plan,
Or who fulfil it but a God?
No drop remains of all the curse,
For wretches who deserved the whole;
No arrows dipt in wrath to pierce
The guilty but returning soul.
Peace by such means so dearly bought,
What rebel could have hoped to see?
Peace, by his injured Sovereign wrought,
His Sovereign fasten’d to a tree.
Now, Lord, thy feeble worm prepare!
For strife with earth and hell begins;
Confirm and guard me for the war,
They hate the soul that hates his sins.
Let them in horrid league agree!
They may assault, they may distress;
But cannot quench thy love to me,
Nor rob me of the Lord, my peace.2