Saved by the whistle

Good Friday was the moment when it was all over. It didnt look like a victory but it was. Paul was to write many years later, all I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death (Phil 3:10).

When the score line is in your favour the tension of the last moments of a game is almost unbearable and the final victory intensely sweet. All the drama of the game – the team strategies, the build up to a strike, the elation of success, or the frustration and pain of defeat, maybe repeated defeat all these are part of what we call entertainment. But they grip us because they relate to our experience, not only on the football field, but in so many experiences in life.

When we say Jesus died for our sins, or he died to save us, what are we really saying? How did his death bring us salvation? We know that we have to choose all the time from our earliest years. And each day from early morning I am deciding how to respond to people, how to do my work or how to spend my free time. And at critical moments I have to decide whether to face an issue or run away from it, whether to speak the truth or hedge it about with painkillers, whether to reach out to people or ignore them. Jesus had to make all these decisions and we have an account of them in some detail from the four writers.

As we read these accounts we notice that his words and actions often go against what people, particularly those in power, expect. This gets Jesus deeper and deeper into trouble so that they are constantly looking for something to use against him (Mark 3:2) some way to get rid of him. He could have chosen a quiet life and retired to his carpentry shop in Nazareth but he didnt.

Actually he couldnt. He couldnt because of the inner conviction he lived, the fire burning in my heart (Jeremiah 20:9). He knew he was sent on a mission and that mission was to respond to every human situation in a way that was completely true no matter what the consequences. And the consequences were dire.

The world threw everything it had at him: misunderstanding, insult, slander, derision, stigma, false accusations, rejection, betrayal, arrest, torture and finally death. But that is all it could do; it could not get the better of him. When all that is evil had had its hour he, being who he is, asserted himself and revealed that all these things had no power.

And all those who followed him discovered that they too could conquer all these things. Nothing even sin could hold them any more. But they must not be complacent before the final whistle.

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