“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but someone once said/wrote that Christians can be categorized by the Holy Day with which they most identify. There are “Christmas” Christians, “Palm Sunday” Christians, “Easter” Christians, and maybe even “Baptism of our Lord” and “Epiphany” Christians. As for me, I am a “Good Friday” Christian. Good Friday is my day. There is something about the fact that Jesus would suffer and die for the world and for each of us, even though it and we are undeserving of such sacrifice, that cuts through my cynicism and callousness, and pierces me deeply in the heart every year at this time. I cannot help but mourn my failings and faults and sins when this happens, but then I also cannot help but be moved to gratitude for this great gift either. And in both situations I am often left wondering why Jesus did it.
And this is the case even though one of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 3:17 – “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” This I can understand intellectually, in my mind, but I just don’t get it in my heart. And as Fred Craddock once said, “The journey from the head “I know” to the heart “I know” is often the longest journey any of us will ever make.” I guess this is so for me because I know a little about my own heart, about how unloving and judgmental it can be, and it is almost beyond me to imagine another person’s or being’s heart not to have the same fatal flaws as my own.
And yet, thank God, the heart of God is not like my own. It is filled with an undying love. This is the truth, and again I “know” it, but it is hard for me to comprehend, let alone accept. I am reminded of a song I used to hear sung in services at my childhood church: “Who Am I?”
Who Am I?
Words and music: Charles (Rusty) Goodman © 1965
Then I ask myself a question – who am I?
When I think of how He came so far from glory
Came to dwell among the lowly such as I
To suffer shame and such disgrace
On Mount Calvary take my place
Then I ask myself this question
Who am I?
Who am I that a King would bleed and die for
Who am I that He would pray not my will, thine Lord
The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
But to an old rugged cross He’d go
For who am I?
Then I’m reminded of His words
I’ll leave thee never
So just be true, I’ll give to you my life forever
I wonder what I could have done
To deserve God’s only Son
Fight my battles ‘til they’re won
Who am I?
Who am I to deserve such sacrifice and such love? Indeed who are any of us to deserve such grace? I turn to another passage of scripture for the answer.
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called, the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
(from Hosea 11:1-9 ESV)