There’s an ocean between our family and our brothers, sisters, parents, nieces and nephews. It creates problems. We can’t get together at Christmas, Easter or birthdays, or pop round for a cup of tea and a chat. We can skype and FaceTime, which isn’t quite the same, but is a lifeline for us. Yesterday, in the middle of cooking supper and getting ready for work I enjoyed twenty minutes of chatting to my Mum, my sister Lu and my nieces. Easily the highlight of my day. I heard about their walk on Sheringham beach and plans for the weekend. I woke up this morning imagining I could be with them, the fun we’d have together, but there is still an ocean between us. It divides and distances us. I need a bit of help in the shape of a plane or a boat (very definitely prefer the plane option) to get me across that body of water and be reunited with them.
As I thought about these things as I woke up early this Good Friday morning to start making Hot Cross Buns, I thought about the much bigger divide that exists between humanity and God. As vast as an ocean. Sin divides us from God and each other. Sin that is not just a lie, or stealing, or being violent. Though it is all those things, sin is simply living life with disregard for God. ‘I did it my way.’ We put ourselves in place of God and then blame him as the whole world falls apart. We are the problem. The villains of the piece. Every single one of us. No one better than the other.
Good Friday is good news because we can’t build a plane or a boat to bridge this divide, but God himself has. The loving God who created us to live in relationship with Him and in harmony with each other and creation rescues us. Our good deeds and self righteousness don’t get us off the beach. There is only one way. When Jesus took God’s wrath for our sin on the cross the Bible tells us that the curtain in the temple ripped from top to bottom. That curtain kept people out of the Holy of holies, the inner sanctuary. The Jews tried to keep God’s law. They failed all the time and had to sacrifice animals to make themselves right with God. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of holies to represent the people and only then at certain special times. As for non-Jews, Gentiles, there was no access. The ripping curtain signified the removal of that system. Jesus is the sacrifice once and for all, he took the punishment to reconcile us with himself. The perfect sacrifice. He did what we could never do. Through Jesus we are accepted in the presence of God. No ritual, or chant, or religious ceremony or leader, or list of good deeds makes us clean and gets us there. Nothing that we can boast in except the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hope of eternity.
When I was a child I wondered why Good Friday was called good. Surely the death of Jesus was a bad thing. I thought the day should be Bad Friday, but that was when I thought I was the good one and pictured myself as a weeping woman at the foot of the cross rather than somebody hurling insults at Jesus as he died. Only when I realized the depths and blackness of my own sin and its destructive power did I realize the amazing goodness of the cross of Jesus. The good news of Easter is life-changing, freedom-giving news for every day of the year. It’s a gift of grace. I don’t have to try to get myself up to the mark or pull myself out of the blackness. In my failure and brokenness I repent and turn to him and He pulls me up.
And, it’s the hope for our broken and divided world. At the foot of the cross is where true reconciliation happens.
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…Ephesians 2:12-18
Good Friday. Good news.