She loved to tell me how she was such a tomboy as a kid—how she climbed those gnarled apple trees and ate those green fruits till she got sick at her stomach. And I loved thinking I was like my mom in this particular way. I loved to climb.
One of my earliest memories was climbing a tree in the woods where my dad had nailed those sawed two-by-fours into the trunk of an old oak. I climbed as high as they would take me and then I shimmied myself up higher, higher, scratching my knees, till I couldn’t go any higher. But I wanted to. I wanted to touch the sky. I wanted to reach heaven.
I want to touch God.
I want to see my mom who died at age 65 of a massive heart attack on Mother’s Day, twelve years ago, after I sent her flowers and told her I loved her—that morning . . .
As a kid, I climbed trees.
As an adolescent and an adult, I climbed ladders to success . . . and applause . . . and recognition . . . and approval . . . and compliments . . . and . . .
So her grandson who cannot remember her because he was only four—he got the ladder on the burn pile today and leaned it up against that weeping willow.
The branches droop down, the tiniest buds ready to burst new life.
And this Good Friday is good because my Lord did what I couldn’t do—what I can’t do—what my son can’t do—what my mother couldn’t do—what YOU can’t do . . .
We can’t reach heaven by climbing.
No matter how high we climb, no matter how hard we try . . .
We can’t reach heaven.
And my stubborn sense of self-sufficiency screams.
I WANT TO SAVE MYSELF!
I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF!
I CAN BE GOOD ENOUGH BECAUSE . . .
But it is NOT so.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
It’s the Roman road. Chapter 3. Verse 23.
The Romans gave Him the wooden crossed beams and told Him to carry after nearly killing Him with leather strips tied around sharp stones. And they did it because the religious had no use for a savior who would not save them the way they wanted. The religious got the Romans to do their dirty work. The religious and the political blood-stained every—human—hand as we scourged, nailed, mocked, and speared.
But some cried.
Some cried desperate tears.
All their hopes?
All their hopes hung on that cross.
All their hopes died on that day.
And we call it GOOD?!
What’s GOOD about flesh ripped to the bone?
What’s GOOD about spitting in another’s face?
What’s GOOD about stripping a person naked and trying to humiliate?
What’s GOOD about making the near-dead carry the weight of OUR wounds—OUR sins—on HIS shoulders, all the way to the outskirts of the city?
What’s GOOD about setting that cross in the earth HE created with HIM pierced straight through wrists and feet, smack-dab-in-the-middle of two others—one who admitted his sin—the other who would not?
I’ll tell you what’s good . . .
Truth is . . .
I have no ladder long enough to reach heaven. Neither do you.
I have no wood strong enough to hold the weight of all my imperfection. Neither do you.
Truth is . . .
There’s GOOD NEWS!
Jesus climbed—for us—so WE don’t HAVE to—because we CAN’T!
Jesus came down to us and paid for us and carried us up to the place we all long for . . .
That place where there are no more tears . . .
That place where there is no more pain . . .
There IS such a place.
But . . .
You can’t get there from here.
Not on your own.
We need to be carried.
We need to be carried in the arms of the One spread wide and nailed through.
We need to be carried by the One with nothing . . .
But thorns as a crown . . .
and loin cloth of a servant.
We need to be carried . . .
Because . . .
No matter how strong, how intelligent, how talented, how nice, how loving, how rich, how giving, how GOOD we think we are, or OTHERS think we are . . .
We are not good enough!
That’s what it means that ALL have SINNED and fallen SHORT of the GLORY of GOD!
Neither am I.
We NEED perfect to make us perfect for a perfect God.
Who wants to be with a God who isn’t PERFECT?
Think and reason!
Who wants to live forever in less than a PERFECT world with less than a PERFECT God?
THANK YOU for carrying MY cross!
THANK YOU for paying—in full—MY debt!
THANK YOU for BEING the ladder—the WAY—the TRUTH—the LIFE—on THIS day we commemorate!
I. Need. A. Savior.
Yes . . .
We NEED a MESSIAH!
Our sorry, scary world NEEDS a Savior, Messiah!
Thank you, JESUS!
For ME! For US! For this crazy, broken world that screams for WHOLENESS!
And—on Sunday—on the THIRD day—that HOLY DAY . . .
We KNOW . . .
We don’t have to climb.
Because YOU, Jesus, came down and carried . . .
We can stop our striving to be good enough. We can stop our climbing.
Because what you did today?
. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
the same Roman road . . .
same chapter . . .
different verse . . .
Today is a good day.
A Good Friday.