Why is it that the most difficult part of Easter is Good Friday, when the climax of the undivided Easter event is the resurrection? I still find, usually elderly and devout believers, feeling bad about Good Friday, and I can still recall my mother’s refusal to wash clothes that day. Such religious superstition may be less obvious in the contemporary Church, but it is still grounded in weak teaching and practice.
Unliving the Cross
It is not uncommon to hear about the lack of cross-related teaching in the latest high-profile megachurches in town. Looking beyond obvious examples (Hillsong), where is the celebrity pastor who has ever said to his people “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 3) or testified, “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 8). Such testimonies are avoided, superficially because they do not fit the victorious overcoming ethos of the congregation, but more profoundly because of shame. Shame at being an ordinary person, a sinner, who every day needs to confess their sin to someone who is a Saviour. Such a lack is a pure contradiction which functionally denies Jesus’ total ongoing identity in being “the one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy chapter 2 verse 5).
It is a dangerous thing to deny the Lord his sovereign glory in reconciliation, no wonder we see the discipline of God breaking forth against the pride of our most celebrated churches. Those denominations that have embedded confession of sin within their liturgies are practising godly order, and those which avoid this ritual are in a state of denial that is grieving the Spirit (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 30).
Theologians divide the life of Christ into two “states”, humiliation and exaltation. The humiliation of the Son of God encompasses his taking on weak, mortal, useless and sinful human flesh (John 1:14; 6:63; Romans 8:3), that he might bearthe wrath of God daily for our sake. That is, that he might experience weariness (John chapter 4 verse 6), despair and eventually death as we deserve to bear it. Jesus was not crucified in confidence, but “in weakness” (2 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 4). Only by suffering supremely could he take away all our poverty of body, soul, and spirit. If Jesus so identified with our frailties, it would be a great spiritual error not to identify our weaknesses with his humiliation. A lowliness whose “meekness and gentleness” (2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 1) continues today. It cannot be however that the end point of lowliness in Christ is self-devaluation.
The Great Reversal
The goal of the cross was not itself, but “life from the dead” (Romans chapter 11 verse 15). In Christ all humiliation has been transformed into exaltation. The “No!”so absolutely and emphatically declared by the Father in his silence at the agony of his Son (Mark chapter 15 verse 34), is now turned into a declaration before the innumerable invisible hosts of heaven, “this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Roman chapter 1 verse 4).
The resurrection of the Lamb has released eternal joy and celebration into the heavenly places (Revelation chapter 5). We must never however conclude that death and resurrection are equal and opposite. The death of Jesus in the place of the Adamic race was finite, the victory of Christ is eternal. It is a “much more” (Romans chapter 5 verse 5, 10, 15, 17) equation. In heaven all our life struggles will be “no more” (Revelation chapter 21 verse 4). Our comprehension of the limitless resurrection victory of the Lord will expand “forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation chapter 1 verse 6).
If we ask, “What is the bridge that connects the death and resurrection of Jesus with his ongoing heavenly life?”, the one biblical answer is intercessory prayer. It is as the everlasting intercessions of the glorified Son of God (Hebrews chapter 7 verse 25) are united to the holy prayers of the saints (Revelation chapter 5 verse 8; chapter 8 verse 3) that a true sense of proportion concerning the humiliation and exaltation of Christ’s substitutionary humanity is imparted to the people of God. A prayerless Church can only ever be a weak Church. Of this, by faith and in petition, we can repent.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html