Go to: => TOP Page;   What's New? Page;   ROAD MAP;   Shopping Mall;   Emmaus Ministries Page;   Search Page


A Spear Wound in My Side...

F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Sermons -- Audio Version

Good Friday - 4/02/10

Easter is often thought to be the "end of the story". Christians who have worked hard at Lent sometimes miss the boat about the conclusion of the life of Christ, where it was all heading. Especially evangelical folks make this error in their concentration on the Cross of Christ, coming to believe that Easter and the Resurrection, at least for all practical purposes, is the end of the story. They perhaps take Jesus' words from the cross, "It is finished...." in a wrong sense.  

He could not have meant that there was nothing important to follow the Resurrection -- because He Himself spent another 40 days teaching the disciples about what they had just experienced. And then He ascended into heaven, which was not just a stage ploy to get the Incarnate Son of God off stage, now that His work was finished. The Ascension was an important part of what was happening.

And then Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection. In Acts 11:15, when Peter was referring back to "the beginning", he was not referring to his being chosen as a disciple, nor to the resurrection of Jesus. He was referring to Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The "beginning" for Peter was Pentecost. Well, that suggests that we have some way to go yet in our liturgical year. The celebration of the liturgical year by Christians is not just a string of pearls haphazardly strung on a string. There is a storyline being told, with a plot, a direction, and a fulfillment. With Good Friday and Easter, we are, you might say, building the foundation -- upon which the coming structure, the Church of God -- will stand.

So much happened after the crucifixion and resurrection which was essential to the work of Jesus on earth -- which we will be exploring over these next several weeks.

Several years ago, I ran into a piece called "Poem from a Chinese Communist Prison", which helps to illustrate my point:

Poem from a Chinese Communist Prison --

Lord Jesus graced my cell last night,
and stood beside my bed.
I thought Him not so tall, nor sad.
"Come, Feel my wound", He said.
His ankles bore the marks of rust.
I'm sure He once wore chains.
I asked from where, and why He came,
and how long He remains. 
Christ placed His finger on my lips
and said, "Be silent, son."
Straw smelled like roses.
But His visit all too brief, was done.
Despaired: I shook the bars!
"Where are you, Lord!?" I cried!
I saw, then, nail scars on my hands, 
a spear wound in my side.

 If we have no scars, perhaps we are not yet on the front lines of this battle. That is not meant to be a morbid thought, but rather a testimony to God, to our own flesh, to the world, and to the devil -- that we are on the side of God, that we will do whatever it takes to be obedient to the purpose for which God has created us. We do not court death or martyrdom. But we will stand firm on speaking and living the truth in love, come what may.

So, what was "finished" on the cross? We are not told any details, but we can surmise that it was a work completed in the disciples for which the Incarnation was necessary. It had much to do with preparing the disciples for dying to self, in just that sense of our testimony to God, our own flesh, the world, and the devil.

Last night, Maundy Thursday, I noted that it was not Jesus who had to die for Himself. He did not have to die to return to heaven. He came to die -- for us. His death for us "works" only to the degree that we have moved our two essential dependencies and stabilities from the world to Jesus Himself. So He must come personally to draw us to Himself. Our praying "at a distance", so to speak, can be only very partially successful.

God drew the Hebrew people through nearly 2000 years of often very troubled history to bring them to the point where the Son of God could come down, the point where God could personally intervene in human history, specifically Hebrew history, to make Himself known, face to face, as the one upon whom to depend and the one to obey.

That was not a new idea in the Bible. It runs though the whole of Scripture. But the time had to ripen, probably in many different ways. We sometimes call it "the fullness of time", when things were ready for the Son of God to enter by the back door, unnoticed by the rich and powerful, except for a few chosen magi -- and Herod.

Jesus came to make God imaginable. It is hard to imagine a God whom we never see. It is much too easy to think of God as "way off there", distant, inattentive, and uncaring about our personal affairs.

Jesus came to make God relatable, knowable, imaginable. The Gospel is all about personal relationship, supremely with God, our Creator and Sovereign. But most of us think of that sort of God as much too high and mighty. So, we can have nothing but a theoretical relationship with Him, not a living relationship in our daily walk. How could such a God even notice the likes of us? So we tend to content ourselves with each other as the ones to trust and obey.

And so, we create all the terrible conditions of the Fallen World, that closed-system world without hope or meaning. There is not a one of us which can be trusted to provide the foundations of our personhood, or the purpose and direction of life, not for ourselves and not for each other. We all make, sooner or later, a bad and self-destructive thing of it.

Either Jesus would come to set us right, or we would continue toward the path of self-destruction. And so He did. Advent, Christmas, Incarnation. It was not enough to know the law of God, we had to get to know the Law Giver.

And so, Incarnation, the ministry of Jesus, Lent, and then Holy Week, where we are tonight.

We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "The law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect. ...the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins."

But they did. They could not shake their guilty consciences. That accusation lurked in the back of their minds, or in the depths of their bowels.

We had to get to know Him Who Is, Him who can be trusted for our ontological foundations, our personhood, our very being, and Him who can be trusted to lead us to that best of all possible worlds, the Kingdom of God. We cannot do that for ourselves, and we cannot do that for each other. We self-destruct.

Only God Himself can settle the issue in our consciences about our forgiven guilt. Merely knowing, and even obeying, the law cannot do that. It is all about personal relationship. Grace does not exist in abstract laws, grace exists only in personal relationship with the Giver of the laws.

Muslim religion does not teach that you can know that you are saved because it does not teach that you can ever get to know God personally. Only those who perform some horrific murder of the "infidels", and dies in doing so, can have any assurance, Muslims teach, of going to the Muslim heaven. That is not a God of grace and love, that is a God of vengeance and abuse of persons.

Hebrews again: "...we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

That is because in a sacramental world, the offering of a body is the offering of one’s whole self -- that reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice of which Paul speaks (Romans 12:1). Again, it is all about personal relationship -- bonding with God and with one another.

That is why we acknowledge in the closing prayer of the Eucharist: "...that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people..." And we pray, "...that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as Thou hast prepared for us to walk in..."

And Hebrews again: "I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; ....And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more."

God will remember them no more, and we will remember them no more, our self-inflicted and self-devouring guilt will melt away. That is a way of speaking, of course. God does not literally have a lapse of memory. Our past is not changed, but our sinful past no longer controls us, no longer defines who we are. We are defined by the gracious will of God who loves us because we have repented and received His pardon. We are free. We are new creatures in Christ. Only God Himself can do that. An abstract set of laws cannot do that. Only a personal relationship with God can erase the conviction of guilt.

 

In our becoming "incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people...," we become the Body of Christ here on earth. That is a primary goal of this whole salvation process. We are to bear the wisdom, the grace, and the power of which Jesus spoke many times, we are to have the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts and in our midst. Jesus told His disciples that they (meaning we) would do greater things than He had done.

But that takes a Christ-like Body of Christians, a Christ-like community of Christ-like persons. "...nail scars in my hands, and a spear wound in my side."

We tend to spend a lot of time rattling our cages, brooding over, "Where has He gone? What has He done for me lately?" not realizing that He has us right where we need to be to do our growing and maturing in His Spirit, and becoming a more and more mature member of the Body of Christ, a member who can be like Christ, willing to give his life for the welfare of his neighbor.

"It is finished...." The work in the disciples is finished, they, apart from Judas, were prepared for what was ahead, 40 day of teaching from the Resurrected Christ, the Ascension, and Pentecost -- the birthday of the Church, the new Body of Christ.

Lord Jesus graced my cell last night,
and stood beside my bed.
I thought Him not so tall, nor sad.
"Come, Feel my wound", He said.
His ankles bore the marks of rust.
I'm sure He once wore chains.
I asked from where, and why He came,
and how long He remains. 
Christ placed His finger on my lips
and said, "Be silent, son."
Straw smelled like roses.
But His visit all too brief, was done.
Despaired: I shook the bars!
"Where are you, Lord!?" I cried!
I saw, then, nail scars on my hands, 
a spear wound in my side.

Father in heaven, produce in us that fruit of Your Spirit, a congregation of persons who are willing to follow You on the Way of the Cross, all the way into the fullness of Your Kingdom, all the way to giving our lives to you and to one another, to be Your Body here on earth, in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son.

Audio Version

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Go to: => TOP Page;   Sermons;   Spiritual Life;   ROAD MAP

Date Posted -  04/04/2010   -   Date Last Edited - 09/15/2012