Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remix: Meditation on the Crucified Messiah

I know it is Advent, but for a variety of reasons, what I wrote in this meditation during last year's Lent is coming back to me today. I thought I would publish it again. Maybe it is meant for someone else besides me.
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We follow a crucified Messiah. We follow a crucified Messiah. I know we know this intellectually. I know we know and preach and teach this. Its basic Sunday School stuff, right? "Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose again on the third day and if you believe in him, you'll have eternal life." But, do we really know this--is it a defining, framing, all-encompassing reality for the way we view life?

A crucified Messiah is well and good when we want our sins forgiven, but not so nice when we want our life to proceed comfortably... predictably... safely. A crucified Messiah is a wonderful thing when we want to escape eternal hellfire, but not so fabulous when our we're called to follow... take up our cross... obey... even when our present life is in shambles. Do you know what I mean?

Over the past couple years I have been gradually awakening to the fact that the crucified Messiah I trust in for salvation is the same one I follow in discipleship. That is to say, I don't simply affirm the reality of the death of Jesus as a fact of my salvation, but I embrace it as both a window into understanding God and a practical way of life--a path to follow after. Here's what I mean.

The reality of our crucified Messiah tells us that God is mysterious, unfathomable, and eternally dense. Who or what is this God who would unite with human flesh, walk the earth, suffer at the hands of sinful men, and experience a tortuous death? Who or what is this God who embraces his enemies and accepts humiliation? Surely not a God that I can understand.

And, this lack of understanding, this confusion about the workings of God, is a major aspect of the real Christian life, is it not? The truth is, things don't always happen for a reason. Not everything works out in the end. And, sometimes horrible things happen and nothing necessarily "good" comes from it. Mothers get pancreatic cancer. Children die. Jobs are lost (along with houses and families and hope). Good pastors suffer at the hands of carnivorous churches. What are we to do with the truth that the Christian life is not a life that's safe and easy and comfortable?

As I have dealt with this issue, I have often felt like Moses standing before Mount Sinai. The ground quakes beneath me as God descends and acrid smoke fills the air. Everyone on the ground below me cowers in terror. This God is fearsome, radically free, and furious with love and justice. What would it feel like to draw near to a God like this? I've also felt like the disciples traveling with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Slowly, it dawns on me that he really believes what he says about suffering and dying and that he actually intends to go through with it. This God is frightening, unpredictable, and dangerous. What does it mean for me to follow the way of a God like this?

It is contrary to everything in my comfortable, safe, Christian American upbringing to draw near to a God who is so intimidating and hazardous. I like to think that my God, my Jesus, is "safe and fun for the whole family." But, whatever this God is that I imagine--this God who guarantees a job, a house, a complacent way of life--it is not the God of Jesus Christ. It is not the crucified God.

And so, I'm back where I started. We follow a crucified Messiah. And, he requires us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Sometimes, the following leads us to mountaintops; often, the following leads us through valleys. In either case, my response is the same. I must follow. Through the fear, the confusion, the sadness, the struggle, the desperation, the loneliness, the uncertainty, the angst--I must follow. I have sold everything to buy the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in a field. I have nothing left to lose. There's simply no other choice.

1 comment:

Faan said...

Hi Emily,
I was also following the crucified Messiah whilst many things did not make sense or worked out as it was supposed to work. His blood was supposed to wash me from all my sins, make my sin stop, make me righteous, make me holy, make my clothes white, give me victory over Satan, and His wounds were supposed to heal me, etc. - but it did not realize and I never understood why not.
One day I once again stood (in my mind for the thousandth time) at the cross and looked and looked and wondered why I do not experience what the Bible says. Suddenly He "spoke" to me or revealed to me that I am the one crucifying, piercing and crushing Him with every sin. Every sin is extremely grievous to Him and breaks His heart and quenches and grieves His Holy Spirit. When I rather listen to Satan and self than to Him, the Holy One, His heart is crushed. I realized I am damned and doomed for He was mutilated and beaten into a heap of flesh – BY ME - through my sins! Every sin had made a fatal wound in His loving heart. That is why the wages of sin is death and why we will not see Him without holiness. And whilst I hurt Him like this, He spared my life and still fed and blessed me!! O my guilt and evil reached the heavens.
I cried out for mercy and forgiveness – but more now than ever for cleansing and deliverance so that sin may stop and that I may live holy and righteous and sin no more – and wound Him no more. In view of the Messiah crucified by my sins, sins are totally inexcusable. Sin is now absolutely condemned in the flesh. “O Jesus, how can I be totally cleansed and sanctified that I may pierce and crush You no more with my sins?” I cried.
He then “spoke” to me or revealed to me what Zachariah wrote in 12:10 – 13:3. If I now, in obedience to the pleading of the Holy Spirit, look up to Him whom I have pierced with every sin and mourn bitterly for Him and confess what each sin did to Him, He will forgive me for what I did to Him, AND He will then open that fountain of His blood to cleanse me from all my sins and unrighteousness. So He will drive out the idols, false prophets and unclean spirits from my heart. If I so confess the wounds I have made and the blood I spilled – with each sin – His wounds will heal me from the sickness and incurable leprosy of sin!! So He will make me holy and righteous.
Now I love Him much for I have been forgiven very very much and was set free from much.
And it is now 14 years since He revealed it to me and He has done what He promised – through the blood of the Lamb slain by my sins.
Now, I follow the Messiah crucified by me and by every sinner around me with overwhelming love and I willingly and gladly lay down my life for Him and my neighbour. I spilled His blood and am willing to spill my blood for Him.
You wrote “ I know we know this intellectually.” – but it is now practical and real life to me.
Glory to God.