Friday, March 25, 2016

How Does God See Us?

Good Friday
The Annunciation of Our Lord
March 25, 2016
If you look at this day from an outside perspective it looks odd. Why would we observe a day in which we are saying that it is good that God died? Why would the meaning of it, that salvation has been accomplished, be expressed in such a somber, and even dreary, fashion? And since we already know that Jesus rose from the dead, why is it necessary to observe His crucifixion?

These aren’t just the questions of people looking at Christianity from the outside. Even to us Good Friday seems a bit curious. Christmas we get. Easter we get. Pentecost, all the other great celebrations of the Church Year. But why do we need to focus on the event in which Jesus ends up lifeless on a cross and taken down to be buried? Is there something about it that we would lose if we just skipped it?

We can answer this by looking at how God sees us. How does God view us, in light of the fact that we are fallen, sinful creatures? We don’t even get past the First Commandment before we sin against Him. How does the holy God see us when we are not as we ought to be, when we look to other things for our good?

The answer is Good Friday. Maybe this is why this day seems so odd, so different. On no other day do we get a clearer picture of what God has in mind for us. In His holiness He must do the only thing that is just, which is damn us to hell. But in His mercy, He does something radically different. He forgives us. He takes the condemnation we rightly deserve and pours it on His Son. His Son bears all of our sin.

This is how He sees us. He sees us as people He loves so much that He will not leave us to our own way but rather save us. He sees us as ones whom He created and will go to any length to restore us, even giving His own Son for us.

The crucifixion of Jesus brings to fruition God’s action of sending His Son to us. Jesus, fully God and one with the Father, became a man, a human being, just as you and I are. This is called the incarnation, God becoming flesh. We confess in the Nicene Creed, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” This year the day Good Friday falls on is actually the date in the Church Year we observe the incarnation of our Lord, March 25. It is known as the Annunciation of Our Lord, and is the day observing the annunciation, the announcement, of the angel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a Son.

This conception would be miraculous, of the Holy Sprit. The child born to her would the Son of God. He would be the Savior of the world. He would be conceived and born in order to suffer and die. How God sees us is seen in His sending His Son to be born of the Virgin and to be forsaken on the cross. How God sees us is shown in Him sending the angel Gabriel to a simple woman who was not yet married and so unable to become pregnant if she were to be faithful to God’s holy commandments. And yet this one woman was the vessel which bore another individual, He being the only one who would bear the sin of every person who ever lived.

If Good Friday seems odd, it’s only because the whole thing seems surreal. God becoming a human being. God living on this earth, the world He created, among the people He created. Being hungry, getting tired, subject to temptation. Being God Almighty and yet scorned, rejected, or simply ignored. And finally falsely condemned to death. It’s not really what you would think would make up a religion.

But Good Friday is the day of the great Reversal. It is the day where God upends any notion we have that everything is okay with us. It shows us that sin is a blight in the world and it leads to death. But the great thing is that it shows us how God sees us. In the reversal, God has mercy on us instead of judgment. He gives forgiveness instead of wrath. The prayer of the Church on Good Friday is encapsulated in the Collect of the Day: “Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross.”

It is through our Lord Jesus Christ willingly being betrayed and delivered to death on a cross that leads God the Father to graciously behold us as His Family. How God sees us is made known in what He was doing on Good Friday. In the Epistle Paul says “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” This is how God sees us, as reconciled to Him on account of Christ. Paul goes on to say of Jesus, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

He became sin in our place. We, in the great reversal, are without sin. We are forgiven. In the Old Testament reading Isaiah proclaims eloquently the great sacrifice and act of love of God toward us in Christ:

      He was pierced for our transgressions;
      He was crushed for our iniquities;
                  upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
      and with His wounds we are healed.
                   All we like sheep have gone astray;
      we have turned—every one—to his own way;
                  and the Lord has laid on Him
      the iniquity of us all.

On Good Friday God looked upon all humankind, the very people He created, and then He looked at His Son. His Son was holy, pure, blameless. And yet, His eternal love moved Him to place on His Son our sins, as the Old Testament reading says, “He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

In the crowning act of Good Friday, Jesus spoke words of triumph before His final breath left Him, as we heard in the Passion Account from the Gospel According to John. Having born the sin of the world, having borne the chastisement that has brought us peace, He proclaimed, “It is finished.” Salvation, accomplished. Reconciliation with God, done. Sinners, forgiven.

This is what God thinks of us. It is how He sees us. If you are ever in doubt, look to the cross. If you ever wonder what God thinks of you, how He sees you, what He desires for you, look to the one He sent to show you how He sees you. Christ is the one who accomplished salvation, and because He has, God forever sees you as His beloved sons and daughters, graciously beholding His Family. Amen.


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