Sunday, April 4, 2010
trading places with Jesus
The Word for today:
Today, in the shadow of the cross, the great prophet gives his last speech before he dies for the very sins he denounces. The denunciation is delivered in the harshest language in the Bible:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"
(See Matthew 23:13-36)
This is law in hyper-drive. Only Jesus can deliver this condemnation without becoming the very hypocrite he condemns.
The eight woes he pronounces in this last speech symetrically balance the eight blessings--known as the Beatitudes--which he pronounced in his very first Sermon:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven..." (See Matthew 5:3-12)
In so doing he has fulfilled Israel's charge to proclaim the whole truth, both the blessings and the curses:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse--the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
The condemnation of the law is a proclamation of our need for the cross. Soon, Jesus became the curses he proclaimed:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)
He took our place on Calvary--Mount Ebal, as it were--so that we could cross the valley to Mount Gerizim:
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field...Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (See Deuteronomy 28:1-15)
If you meet him in this valley and you ask him to trade places, he will.
He died your death so you could live his life. That's what Easter is all about.