Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matthew 26: The only good man, the only treatment for sin

Poet William Butler Yeats wrote in "The Second Coming"

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold... The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

I think Yeats was writing about the rise of the Nazis. But he also describes Matthew 26, where Judas, the mob, and the ruling Pharisees are "full of passionate intensity" while Peter and friends "lack all conviction," unable to keep God's son company or even admit they know him. 

Only one man stands strong. Jesus, praying alone in selfless obedience when everyone else slept.  Jesus, speaking calm words of authority to stop religious mob violence. Jesus, speaking truth to murderous, lying power, knowing his words will be used as a pretext for killing him. For those he calls to be dragged before the authorities to testify (see Matthew 10, he sets an example. As John was the last and greatest of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus is the firstborn of the suffering servants and martyrs whose blood is the seed of the church.   

How many tired, lonely prayer warriors has his example inspired? How many brothers and sisters in the crucible of suffering have bowed their heads and found joy in the words, "not my will but thy will be done?" How many evangelists and activists have met mob opposition with inspired words of authority?
This is the spotless Lamb of God who said, “Drink…all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The awfulness of sin is so apparent in Matthew 26. It has so warped the hearts of the Heirs of Abraham that individually and collectively they plan and carry out the murder of the greatest of their prophets, the very Son of the Owner of the Vineyard. At best, they stand by cowed, helpless, selfish.
Last Sunday, I heard Jericho Congregational Church Sunday School teacher Rich Parker describe in moving terms the awfulness of our sin and the high price that must be paid for its utter destruction. Rich and his wife Linda lost their only child, John, to a long struggle with leukemia. He told us that leukemia cells are so insidious that EVERY CELL must be destroyed. Leaving just one cell alive invites an unrelenting multiplication that “when full blown, leads to death,” as James says. And so the painful, invasive, destructive chemo treatments are injected into the innocent victim’s body to do its terrible work. Nothing less will do.
In the spiritual realm, halfway treatments – slaughtered goats, alms for the poor, trying to follow the Golden Rule, etc. – will not destroy sin. Revival occurs not when people want to improve society, but when they die to self and embrace the cross. The violence, hatred, indifference, religious hypocrisy, and individual and societal spiritual death that plagued Israel and plagues the world today can be eradicated only by the most radical treatment: the application to the human heart of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

No comments:

Post a Comment