Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the Cross, Easter, and Telling Jokes have in Common

John 19:30
Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!”

John does not record it, but the other Gospel accounts say that he cried with a loud voice. It was not the voice of the defeated; it was the shout of the victor. The Greek word for “it is finished” means far more than that something was over or done—it literally means that it was “rounded out to perfection.” This word was also used in those times for when something was bought and “paid in full.”

Good Friday reminds us that we each had a debt we could not pay. We have all sinned and we all fall short of God’s glory. We are all guilty and the punishment we deserve is death. Fortunately, the story of the Bible does not end with our sin. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came and took the punishment we deserve.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For our sake he made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Another translation puts it this way: “God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” The debt we owe has now been paid in full by Christ. Redemption is complete. It is finished.

Luke 23:46
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

You’ll notice that none of the gospel writers say that Jesus died. He yielded up his spirit. He committed his spirit to the hands of the father—this act was both voluntary and free.

While the crucifixion is sad and difficult to think about…we must remember that the cross was not a tragedy but a victory. This is why we call Good Friday “good.” Let us not be mistaken…the crucifixion was not a moment where evil got the best of God…and then Easter Sunday is a day where God got the best of evil. No…God won on both days. Sinful men did play a part in Jesus' crucifixion, however; we must keep in mind that ultimately God was in control here, not men. The Crucifixion was his plan, not theirs. Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday intentionally. Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. Jesus allowed himself to be crucified. This was not simply a sacrifice…it was a self-sacrifice. No one took Jesus' life...he laid it down. And when he had accomplished his mission—Jesus gave up his spirit.

I read recently that the Greek Orthodox Church had a tradition where the day after Easter they would get together to tell jokes. They felt they were imitating the cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the Resurrection. Satan thought he had won and was smiling about his victory...thinking he had the last word. So he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and grace and salvation became the last words. Because of Easter sin and death are not the ending of our story. That's good news!