READING: Romans 5:6-11
If your life was a TV show, which show would it be? For some people life is a big episode of Survivor: a dog-eat-dog place, impersonal, heartless – where the strong ad the clever succeed. If you think that, you’ll probably try to grab as much as you can for yourself, before the others grab it first. You won’t worry too much if you trample on the other guy.
Other people live in an episode of Lost, the world is a scary and dangerous place, you have to protect themself, you keep your distance from others, the others are dangerous, you live behind closed doors.
Some people are living in an episode of Modern Family, or if you’re older, MASH: the world is crazy, messy and confusing, you’ve given up trying to make any sense of it. If you think that, you probably won’t have many big goals or ambitions – you just hang on for the ride, try to enjoy it while it lasts, and see what happens. The way you see the world will drive the kind of life you live.
We have just seen Jesus suffer and die. What kind of story is he in? It’s a tragic story of betrayal, injustice, murder. But the apostle Paul looked Jesus’ death on the cross – we’ve just heard his words – and he comes up with a surprising word to describe it. That word is reconciliation.
It’s a great word, isn’t it. A beautiful word. Reconciliation. It comes with a story, a story that will challenge our thoughts about what our world is like. It’s a story that’s all too familiar to us: a family bustup. A father who raises his children, but things turn sour, the children push him away and go their own way, live their separate lives, forget they even have a father. Alienated.
Only in this story, the father is God, and the children are – us. The way the Bible tells our story, things have broken down between us and God. Sin and evil came in and turned things sour, turned us away from him. Now we live like orphans. Without God. No connection, no relationship. Lost in the world.
But Paul looks at Jesus dying, and he sees things change there. He looks at the cross and he sees – love. Paul writes:
“God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
How does God feel towards us, since we pushed him away? Does he still want us? The answer is here: God comes down to us in the person of Jesus his son, and he takes all our sin, all our lostness, and all our brokenness onto himself, and he bears it all, he dies our death, he shares in our side of the story. There was a lot of alienation in those scenes we watched [the Passion story], wasn’t there. That was our alienation. Jesus went through that for us. Paul writes “Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good man someone might actually dare to die.”
I wonder if there’s anyone you’d die for. I can’t tell you how much I love my three children, I love them so much sometimes it hurts. I might die for them. But for anyone else? “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
When you look at Jesus at the cross, his arms spread wide, what you’re looking at is the wide open arms of God, towards us his lost ones. When you see Jesus’ blood flowing down, you’re looking at the heart blood of God, bleeding for us. This is the story of the cross, you wouldn’t find it in a TV show. But Paul reckons this is the place to learn the truth about our world. At the heart of the universe is a Father who loves us and gives us his most precious son to die for us. At the centre of reality is a Saviour, Jesus, who holds out his hands to welcome us back. A saviour who has bled and died to bring us back. Back so we can know God and belong to him once again.
That’s the good news of Easter. The world is this sort of world. Not impersonal, not heartless, not hostile. At its heart, at the centre of things there is a father’s heart, which beats for us. A father who wants us back. Do you believe that? Because what you believe about the world is going to shape your whole life, and your family’s lives.
Reconciliation. Paul writes here to the early Christians, “it was when we were enemies, that we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son”. That’s what this cruel death was about. The cross will always be a mystery: but what we can say for sure is this: Jesus was making a way back for us. Back to live as God’s children once again. Everything that sin had done to push us apart, he took it, and he took it all down to the grave with him. Now we can have a fresh start with God. No reproach. No condemnation, no pointing the finger at our failings. Reconciled. God with us, us with him. Accepted. Loved. Through Jesus crucified.
Friends, that’s good news. And that’s Jesus’ invitation to you and me this Easter. A way back, a chance to come and live connected to the heart of the universe. A father’s heart.