Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 13, 2013

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:37-38)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh . . . (Romans 8:1-3)

Our story of faith seems to move from the singular to the plural, from the particular to the universal. It moves from Abram to his descendants to all the families of the earth; it moves from Moses to the Hebrew slaves to the nation of Israel; it moves from Jesus to his followers to the church and to the world.

Paul tells us that Jesus came deal with sin. John tells us that Jesus came to be the savior of the world (1 John 4:14). The issue of sin moves easily from the particular to the universal and back again. Sin may be about me, but it’s about me in the context of us.

When we read the narratives of the gospels, it is a bit shocking to see how this dealing with sin comes about for Jesus. It comes about by sin having its way with him. The story culminates in sin winning the day, parading Jesus’ perfect, broken body around like a macabre trophy. Sin wins and Jesus suffers and dies.

I suppose that’s part of the reflective lament of the season of Lent. We hover over the passion narrative and watch tragedy unfold. This one sent as savior of the world, whose words and works rolls across the cracked and wounded skin of Israel like a healing salve, is suddenly despised by his own people and brutally, shamefully, executed. Somehow, in that sad drama, Jesus deals with sin.

It isn’t just that Jesus takes my sin and your sin away. It’s that Jesus allows the systemic, violent sin of the world to focus its fury on him on a particular day in a particular point in human history. In that particularity, in and through Jesus, God takes both sin and death into himself. He doesn’t heap sin and death on us; he embraces them willingly in order to rip out their teeth and ultimately destroy them.

We don’t see the turning of the tables until Easter. Yes, sin and death win on Friday. But their power is unraveled on Sunday. Yes, in the world there is still sin and, yes, we will still die. But neither sin nor death gets the last word in the story. God’s word is the last word.

And his word is Jesus.

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