25 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14,15
I would expect that there are very few people reading this reflection who doubt the death of Jesus? It seems to be a well documented fact; even a secular historian cites a man named Jesus being killed by Romans. Although we don’t doubt the event happened, we may doubt it’s meaning, or whether it’s good, or whether it’s sufficient. Maybe we have more doubts than we think regarding his death.
The Bible encourages us to believe that Jesus death on the cross was significant for all of humankind as it brought forgiveness of sin, gained victory over evil, satisfied our need to die, and was the most inspirational example of love. And yet, we still feel guilty, evil seems to be still alive and flourishing, our loved ones still die, and God killing his son is considered more controversial than inspiring. What appears to be our reality runs contrary to scriptural truth, and the contradiction breeds more doubt than it does belief.
And what about the doubt that the death is good? Many are puzzled that we glibly call the day when the world killed Jesus ‘Good Friday’. Recently, I was trying to explain it to some children and I could see the skepticism in their face. They were not being skeptical it happened, but that a death was called good. I felt like a cheap salesman trying to sell a used teabag to a Brit with the pitch that a watered down version is significantly healthier. Yet the Scripture says it is better that one should die than all perish. So if Jesus death keeps us all from perishing, that’s good; isn’t it?
‘But is it good enough’ we hear whispered at times; strangely sounding like the voice of our own doubts. Can it be possible that a death 2,000 years ago can meet the requirement of a holy God who had pronounced death as a deserving end to all humankind? To answer our doubt about sufficiency we want to insist on some good works. ‘Go to church, avoid cheating, be kind –– that will ensure salvation’. Again, that’s the voice of doubt. Listen to the voice of Christ: ‘it is finished’. Really?
What do we do with these doubts? We ought not ignore them or suppress them. Ignoring them will make them raise their voice from a whisper to a shout. Suppressing them will cause them to spring back larger, more unmanageable, and with a bit of an attitude. Address the doubts by laying them before God, the Holy Spirit, in prayer. His responsibility is to lead us into all truth, to comfort and to guide. For the questions God wants us know the answers, the Spirit will reveal the truth we need to know. He will comfort when the answers are not yet forthcoming, and he will guide us along the difficult path from doubt to belief.