Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Way of the Cross (1)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, as we move towards the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Today I'm also launching a (hopefully) daily series as we join with Jesus on his journey towards Jerusalem, the way of the cross. As we'll see in this series, the way of the cross begins a lot further back than Pilate's house; a lot earlier than the first days of Jesus' ministry in Galilee; it goes right back to Eden and beyond. I invite you to join with me as we follow the way of the cross through the Scriptures.

Perfection. Paradise. A wonderful creation, moulded and shaped by God, inhabited by the people made in his image. Eden stands at the start of the Bible, yet as we look around us at the world in which we live, it doesn't look much like Eden. Murder, violence, rebellion, hate, fear, famine - these are daily headlines on our TV screens. What went wrong? What changed?

The Bible, in Genesis 3, tells us how we fell from Eden to everyday life. Eve and Adam obey the creation rather than the Creator; they believe the lie rather than the truth; they desire to be like God rather than to love and serve God. And so they fell, hiding from God because they suddenly see themselves as they really are. Guilty, shameful, lost.

God comes as judge, acting justly towards the serpent, yet with mercy towards his people - promising a deliverer, the serpent-crusher. The one who will bruise the head of the serpent even as his heel is bruised. The hunt is on for the one who will deal the fatal blow to the serpent, the devil, while suffering himself to perform it. But before we dash on from Genesis 3, to find out who this serpent-crusher will be, we get another hint towards the end of the chapter.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

It's not saying that Adam and Eve were only given skin at this time - as if they had been running around like fleshless skeletons you might see in a horror movie. No, they were fully skinned - but now the Lord covers their nakedness with garments of skins.

For their shame to be removed, they were covered with skins - the skins of animals. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but either way, an animal has to die in order to yield its skin. So even here, right in the earliest days, we see the notion of substitution in operation, where something dies to provide cover for the shame and sin of God's people.

We, living after the cross, can see this much clearer, as we put on Christ, as we are clothed in his righteousness, and our shame is taken away.

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