Friday, April 20, 2007
It's amazing how a little time changes things. When Luke first got his hard-soled shoes, he did not like them one bit. This morning, I left him in his diaper so that he could have some banana for breakfast without ruining his clothes for the day. Well, he wasn't ready for breakfast when he first got up, so I let him play for awhile. As I was fixing my morning cup of coffee, Luke walked into the kitchen, one sandal in each hand. He then bent over and tapped his feet with his shoes, his way of asking nicely for me to put his shoes on. This asking to wear shoes has become a common occurence. Of course, I think he likes his shoes so much because he associates shoe wearing with going outside. As soon as they were on, he walked to the back door and started reaching for the doorknob. Shoes mean going outside. Clothes? Who needs clothes for leaving the house?
Monday, April 16, 2007
Saturday, April 7, 2007
On Wednesday, it suddenly occured to me that I should probably give Luke a chance to get used to his new shoes rather than putting them on him for the first time only to leave him in the nursery at church. So, we have been practicing. He is still not a fan. He tries to pull them off. He looks at me with those big blue eyes, questioning what in the world I have done to him now. His confidence in walking is shattered when wearing the new shoes. He is back to needing two hands held to go anywhere. I have decided that it is hard to be one year old.
We have taken to calling Luke, "Snaggletooth." His smile is filling out with teeth, but some are more stubborn than others. The tooth count is at five. Two on bottom. Three on top, with a lovely hole between the two on his right and one on his left. What a cutie!
Sunday, April 1, 2007
What about you? What image does the cross bring to your mind? Perhaps you do see the man hanging there. The Son of God, not only stripped of his divine glory, but of his very clothing as well. He hangs there, exposed in the air. He doesn't hang there by a harness. It is not some illusion presented to horrify us in a movie. The horror is real. The spikes are in his wrists, in his feet. The nails are actually engulfed by his flesh. Blood pours out. It is the sacrifice.
We in the western world are unfamiliar with the concept of sacrifice. We tend to think that whenever we give up a privilege it is a "sacrifice." I pat myself on the back when I give up the opportunity to go see the latest movie in order to spend time with a hurting friend who needs to talk, congratulating myself on "sacrificing" for my friend. Or I console myself by calling it a selfless sacrifice to allow my roommate to eat the last brownie. But this is not the meaning behind the biblical use of the term. The idea of sacrifice in the Bible involves blood, death, life lost on behalf of another.
Okay, so maybe this isn't a revolutionary idea for you. Perhaps when you think of sacrifice your mind automatically goes to the saving work of Christ on the cross. You may immediately associate Christ's dying on your behalf whenever the term comes up. So, my next question to you is, has it become an abstract theological consideration? Do you find yourself contemplating the work of Christ only in terms of what it has done for you? Or do you find yourself wondering what took place for Him? What was it like for Him to be the sacrificial lamb?
The Old Testament book of Leviticus gives us a picture of what took place when an animal was offered as a sacrifice. Picture the process with me. Imagine you are living in Israel during the time of David. The time has come to take your offering to the temple to make atonement. You carefully walk through your herd, searching for the perfect lamb, the lamb without blemish.
After choosing the best lamb from your flock, you begin the journey to the temple. Each day you spend walking to Jerusalem, your perfect lamb in tow, you ponder the reason for your journey. The constant bleating is an ever-present reminder. The burden of your guilt weighs heavily upon you. Once again you have failed, fallen short of God's standard and you know that God is a God of justice and wrath (Psalm 7:11). You know that God is a God who does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:7). And you know that the punishment for your guilt is death. A panic sweeps over you. The reality and gravity of your guilt against God sinks in. Then it quickly fades as the bleating of a sheep fills your ears. You remember that God has given you a way out. He will accept the life of this animal in the place of your life. Relief floods over you, as well as gratitude towards God, and perhaps even a little love and pity for the animal accompanying you.
Your time of contemplation and reflection continues as you wait at the temple for your turn to present your lamb to the priest for sacrifice. When your time finally arrives, you stand before the priest with your lamb, the one you meticulously chose, the one who accompanied you on the long journey and stood at your side in the temple courtyard. You lay your hand on its head as the law commands, showing that this guiltless animal now bears your own guilt. Its head is warm with life. It continues its bleating, now more frantically. With your hand on its head, you raise your knife to its neck and quickly make the stroke which brings your atonement.
Suddenly, there is an eerie quiet. The bleating has ceased. A stream of deep red pours forth from the animal's neck. Your hand remains on the head which is now deathly still and without movement. You watch as the spark of life fades from its big black eyes until they stare blankly ahead. Blood continues to flow from the neck of the one who bore your judgment. The iron smell of blood fills the air around you. The flow slows to a drip, but the payment is not yet complete. The blood and the gore are just beginning.
The priest takes the blood and sprinkles it against all sides of the altar. Then you must cut the carcass into pieces. Warm, sticky blood covers your hands and creeps up your arms, splattering against your clothing as you do your brutal task. You wash the heart, the stomach, the kidneys, and all the other inner organs with water. Then you cleanse the legs with water. The priest then takes each of the body parts to the fire burning on the altar. An aroma pleasing to the Lord rises through the air (Leviticus 1:10-13). The smoke blows in your face and the smell of burnt flesh singes your nose.
As the last of the offering succumbs to the flame, you turn to leave, passing by the bloody mess your sin has made on the ground. As you walk away from the temple, you take note of the absence of the tug at the end of the rope in your hand. You also breath deeply and freely, knowing your sin has been atoned for once again. This is a familiar feeling because this is not the first time you have made this journey. And you know it will not be the last.
Now, take another look at the cross. What do you see? From this angle, the cross is a sacrificial altar, covered in blood. The man on it, the Son of God, is the pure and spotless lamb dying as your substitute. His hand reaches out to your head, showing His voluntary acceptance of your judgment, of your punishment, of your death.
His blood courses over his body. The warm, sticky substance ebbing from the body of the God-man flows down to cover you. Then, as the deep red of His blood meets with the deep black of your sin, something amazing happens. Your blackness is transformed to dazzling white. Rather than being covered with a smelly, sticky substance, you are washed clean by the blood of the lamb. It is a deep clean. A clean that reaches to your bones and through your soul.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that even though we were idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, greedy, or liars, we have been washed clean and justified in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Our blackest black is declared pure white by the red blood of the lamb. There is more. It goes far deeper than the outward actions that are visible to all. The blood of Christ goes above and beyond what the blood of an animal could do and washes even our conscience clean (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The cross is a cleansing shower, cleaning the deepest recesses of your being. As you walk away from the cleansing shower, you pass by the bloody mess on the cross caused by your sin. You have been thoroughly purified and atoned for. This is a new, refreshing feeling. You know that the process, the sacrifice, will not have to be repeated. The atonement is complete. The blood of the Lamb of God has made you permanently clean.