Why Jesus Died
Back in the 90's the TV show, Seinfeld, was all the rage. I watched the show so frequently back in those days that many events in life trigger memories of particular episodes of Seinfeld. Recently, I recalled one show in which Jerry started dating a woman who participated in charity events and helped feed the homeless. He was attracted to the woman, yet he felt he couldn't date her. As Jerry said, "..she's giving and caring and genuinely concerned about the welfare of others - I can't be with someone like that!" Jerry couldn't be in relationship with someone he admired or engage in sexual relations with her because, as George put it, "where's the depravity?" Interestingly, he initiated this conversation with George about his girlfriend after she forgave him for getting her number of an AIDS Walk list. Because of that, and other things his girlfriend, Lena, had done, she seemed to 'good' for him. He needed some sense of dirtiness in the relationship or else it couldn't continue. Perhaps he just didn't feel 'clean' enough to date someone who seemed so pure and good. Of course, for those who remember the episode, Jerry later found evidence that she wasn't as pure as he had thought. At that point, he no longer feared to date her.
Have you ever felt the way Jerry did? A pastor once related how he'd been playing golf with a bunch of guys he just met that day. The guys were relaxed and enjoying themselves, telling off-color jokes now and again to each other. As soon as they found out he was a pastor, however, they clammed up immediately and seemed very uncomfortable in his presence. For me, as a former psychology major, people would always 'joke' when they found out my major that, 'oh, no, are you going to psychoanalyze me now?' Though it would often be said as a joke, people did seem a bit nervous about it. Were they afraid I'd discover something about them? The answer, simply, is that they probably were in a manner similar to the discomfort those golfers felt around the pastor and the way Jerry Seinfeld's character felt when faced with the prospect of dating a genuinely good person. We all have attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors we want to hide. Whether we believe someone will actually expose those things we'd like to keep hidden or whether we think being around someone who's so very good willbring to light those hidden things too clearly for our comfort, we know that there's something inherently wrong with us. Inside, we don't truly feel clean.
Imagine, then, that you someday come face to face with God. Picture yourself standing before the God who created the entire universe and everything and everyone in it, who weaved together the very fabric of existence and on whom its continuation depends. He's all-powerful and all-knowing. Remember that time you masturbated in your parents bedroom? He knows about that. Or, how about that time you lied to your girlfriend or boyfriend about where you'd been the night before? He knows that, too. Every single thought and action you've ever done, he knows. Think about it for a moment. Every single shameful, deceitful, mean, cruel, or petty thing you've done, he knows. And you'll have to stand before him one day with his eyes boring holes into yours, seeing past the outer surface the world sees into the real you that you've kept hidden away all these years. Does the thought make you squirm? Do you want to face that scrutiny? could you even stand one minute in his presence knowing what it will be like? Probably not. This will be much more embarassing than those dreams we've all had of standing in front of a large group of people in our underwear. Not only our body, but our soul will be stripped bare.
If you're like me, you're very uncomfortable with that thought. Most of us feel a sense of shame at the thought of our bodies being exposed, but to have our souls exposed fills us with dread. Why do we keep so much of ourselves locked up and reveal only bits and pieces of our true selves to others? Why not tell people about those shameful things we did as teenagers? Because we're afraid of rejection. If we tell people about us, our actions, thoughts, and beliefs, they'll reject us. Underlying much of our lives, there's a fear that if people get to know the real us, they won't like us very much. So we put on a show, dress ourselves up to hide the blemishes, both physical and spiritual. If we're lucky, there are a few people in this world with whom we can share our hearts. We can reveal those hidden things to them and they won't reject us. But, do we truly reveal everything? Is there not some thought or action we've taken in the past or present that we hide away. Just that one thing we can keep a secret because it's just too bad. No one else knows, you think, or has to know.
God knows, though. If he so desires, he could play back a video showing us every thing we've ever done. You'll have to stand before him, knowing that? Could you? Or would you run screaming, ashamed at all you've ever done or become. Worse, you know that of the sad, shameful, mean things you've done, he's done none of them. It sometimes seems easier to share your failings with people who've failed in similar ways, but God has not failed, ever. Like Jerry, you might say: "I can't be with someone like that!" For, you see, the Bible describes God's relationship with us as a marriage and as something more intimate than a sexual relationship. Could you be with someone who knows all flaws and has committed none of them, someone who IS good?
Worse, can you imagine someone like that wanting to be with you? To understand God's position, think back to a person who's hurt you in the past. He or she may have stolen from you, lied to you, betrayed you, or even cheated on you while you were dating or married. If you've ever had to confront the person after the incident, how difficult was it to face that person? For those of you who've been betrayed badly by another, how long did it take before you could stand to be in that person's presence without rage smoldering in your heart? Perhaps you simply didn't make the effort and ended the friendship or relationship immediately after the betrayal. Whenever you think of the person, is it with fond memories, or does anger and hatred swell in your heart? Mostly likely, if someone else mentions the person's name, you have to make strongest effort not to leap in with something negative to say. Indeed, you bash the person verbally every chance you get, to friends, family, and co-workers.
Imagine, then, how God might feel when he thinks of all the mean, petty, sad things we've done in our lives. We might not think we've done them against God, but in truth we have, for we have misused the gift of life he's so graciously given us. Considering how you've betrayed him, might not he feel that same rage you do when betrayed? Would he want to enter into a relationship with you and spend eternity in your presence? It's hard to imagine, isn't it? For those who've wronged another, one of the hardest things to do is actually face that person, both for the shame you feel over your actions and for fear of the anger your actions will arouse in the one you've wronged.
But, God has made a way. He's made a peace offering that we might reconcile with him and dwell with him forever. No bitterness or anger will linger between us should we grasp hold of the offer he's made to us. All our mean, petty, shameful acts will be forgiven should we grab hold of the olive branch he's extended to us. A mediator has stepped into the gap to make peace between his Father and the people who have turned away from him. That mediator is Jesus Christ, who served as that peace offering when he died on the cross. He died so that we might be reconciled to his Father and spend eternity with him. We need not be ashamed any more for there is one who knows everything about us, yet loves us so much despite those that he sent his one and only son to die for us that we might be saved. That is the message of the cross, and the reason why Jesus had to suffer. Praise be to God for paving the way for our restoration!
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