Friday, 18 April 2014

WHEN THE TOWERS FALL: Rebuilding your Life in the Rubble Part 6

It's Good Friday in Rubble Town and I guess I'm asking again the question that many ask: 'how does the death of Jesus two thousand years ago make a difference to my life - and to the lives of everyone else - in the rubble?'

Of course there's a variety of possible answers to this.

Here are the common ones:

The death of Jesus affects and transforms my life in the rubble because ....

No 1: in relation to my sin, Christ's death was an all-sufficient sacrifice

No 2: in relation to the devil's grip on my life, Christ's death was a total victory

No 3: in relation to my slavery Law and sin, Christ's death was a glorious redemption

No 4: in relation to my hostility towards God and others, Christ's death was a beautiful reconciliation

No 5: in relation to my guilty verdict before God, Christ's death was my undeserved pardon and release.

These are the five most common answers to the question I am asking today.

The first is taken from the Temple (substitution)

The second from the battlefield (liberation)

The third from the slave market (redemption)

The fourth from the political arena (reconciliation)

The fifth from the law courts (justification).

All of these are helpful answers.

But they aren't the only ones.

Today I'm so relieved that there are also other pictures in the Bible.

For example, I am comforted by a truth that has been largely neglected in Christian history but which cries out to us from the pages of the New Testament.

That truth can be summed up in the following statement:

In relation to my orphan state, Christ's death was a loving adoption.

To my knowledge this idea has hardly been given any air time by theologians over the centuries.

But it's Biblical and it's timely.

The truth is Jesus Christ embraced the orphan experience at Calvary. In his human heart he absorbed the full agony of what it feels like to be separated from a father's love.

He cried out, 'my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'

In other words, in his human heart he experienced the crushing, dreadful and appalling tragedy of the feeling of his Abba's absence.

And that after having never known anything other than his Abba's intimate and affectionate presence.

But this wasn't the whole picture.

In reality his Father was there, holding him, comforting him, weeping over him, even though Jesus couldn't feel that in the moments leading to his death.

Our sin - condemned in his crucified body (Romans 8:3)- had separated him from his Father, at least in his human consciousness.

Our sin had made him feel like his Dad wasn't there for him any more.

What dreadful sorrow he must have felt.

And all for our sakes.

William Blake, in his poignant sketch of the Trinity at the Cross, captures this as perfectly as pen and ink ever could.

Jesus feels abandoned in his human heart. 

But in reality the eternal Trinity is not fractured.

The three are still one.

The dying Son is cradled like a new-born child.

Why did Jesus endure the excruciating reality of the orphan condition on the Cross?

My answer is simple.

The Son of God became an orphan so that we who are orphans could become the sons and daughters of God.

Now that is an angle on the Cross that has been almost totally unexplored.

It is virgin territory, which is why I've written a book about it called, My Father's Tears: The Cross and the Father's Love.

I wrote this because it's this revelation that has brought me comfort over the last two years in particular.

I may be a sinner, feeling sometimes a sense of the Father's absence, but he has never stopped holding, hugging and healing me.

Never will either.

I may have messed up and behaved like a total and utter orphan, but I'm still enfolded in the arms of the Trinity.

I'm still loved.


Wrapped in astonishing grace.

For those who live in Rubble Town, Good Friday is a good day because it reminds us broken ones that Jesus has lived and died in Rubble Town too.

It reminds us that the mess of Ground Zero is not the endgame any more than the devastation and detritus of Calvary was for Jesus. 

Out of the Rubble comes the Resurrection.

After the dismantling there is always re-mantling.

In the December of 2010, when most would have said my ministry was taking off, a dear friend of mine - someone with more than an average dose of the prophetic anointing - had a dream that suggested the exact opposite.

She saw me in a coffin, naked.

She and two other women were watching over me.

At that moment in her dream all she wanted to do was to cover my nakedness and protect me from public humiliation.

'He's my pastor,' she cried. 'We have to cover him.'

But then something happened.

My hair began to grow.

And I came back to life, rising from the coffin as a brand new creation.

The next morning she woke feeling troubled.

'What was all that about? Mark's ministry is taking off. But this is about death.'

Just under two years later she understood.

And when she shared it with me, so did I.

The Father had been warning her about what was coming.

But that's not all.

Even though she was warned of my crucifixion, she was also given a vision of resurrection (with new hair too, like Samson!).

She was told in effect that the story doesn't end in death.

For those of us living in Rubble Town, who often feel like they've been abandoned, the Good News is that we are still held by the divine love - perhaps now more than ever.

And the even better news is this: it may be Good Friday right now, but Easter Sunday is just days away.

And in the Father's kingdom, crucifixion is not a full stop.

It's a semi-colon.

So I guess if I have a sixth principle for rebuilding your life in the Rubble it is this:

Don't believe the lie that says it's all over.

It's only a matter of time before you're going to live again!

Mark Stibbe's new book, My Father's Tears: The Cross and the Father's Love is published September 2014 by SPCK.

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