If you don’t know the name of Rollen Stewart, I bet you know
who he is. In the 1970s and ‘80s, Stewart appeared at major
sporting events wearing a rainbow wig and holding up a sign
reading: “John 3:16.” Stewart, an enthusiastic Christian, was
determined to get the message out. He showed up at basketball
finals, all-star games, between football goalposts, at “Amen Corner”
at the Augusta National Golf Club, and behind the pit crew
at the Indianapolis 500.
Why John 3:16? Because God so loved that God gave. The
idea that the Son of God might be fully human, fully divine,
and very much alive seems incongruous to those who prefer that
religion be a purely spiritual matter. But Christians refuse to let
go of the Incarnation—the idea that a holy God came into this
world in the muck of a stable and left it via the painful torture
of a cross—that God took on flesh and blood for us.
Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about
noon. On the Friday afternoon that Jesus dies, the parade of
lambs, goats, and calves into the Temple will have just begun.
For the rest of the afternoon, they would be slaughtered while
priests caught the blood and poured it on the altar. Outside in
the courtyard, the animals were skinned and cleaned according
to the law of Moses while Levites sang psalms of praise to God.
So there were two bloody places in Jerusalem that day—
one at the Temple and the other at Golgotha. At the close of this
day, it was obvious to some who the real scapegoat had been—a
flesh-and-blood Savior, the Lamb of God, who sacrificed himself
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace. Amen.
It is not appropriate to conclude that God disappears at the cross and only emerges again in the event of Easter. Christian proclamation of the cross begins with the understanding that even in Jesus’ utter abandonment, God was present. The Holy Week/Easter texts bring together the common themes of death’s reality, the powerful intrusion of the delivering God, and the manifold responses to resurrection. Paul argues that the gospel looks to many like nothing more than weakness and folly. The cross symbolizes defeat but is in reality the instrument of power and salvation. Isaiah 50:4-9a recalls the hostility that follows upon servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the servant the fact of the rejection to come. John 20 honestly faces the reality of death. Paul asserts in First Corinthians that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the power of God.
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. When have you faced a task with your face set like int? How did your resolve impact the outcome of your work?
• Read Matthew 27:57-66. When have you attempted to seal Jesus in a tomb? When have you felt anxious or fearful about the change Jesus might bring in your life?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. In what ways have you discovered the Cross to be God’s wisdom for you?
• Read John 20:1-18. How does Jesus’ resurrection signal new life to you? What comes to you “green and fresh” today?
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