People all over the world are remembering, reflecting, and “celebrating” today. It happens every year, but nothing about the reason for remembering, reflecting, or celebrating was likely to be remembered on the initial day. Sure, a few might have remembered a year later, or even a couple of decades later, but those memories would have been relegated to family and a few close friends.
It was a day like many others in the Roman Empire. Criminals faced trial, were found guilty, and were executed. In order to deter other criminals some of those individuals were executed on a cross in plain public view. It was impossible to pass by without seeing the bodies and hearing the cries. Common thieves, murderers, and other perpetrators were lined along the entry way to cities, and other prominent places.
Yes, the day was just like many other days in the Empire.
Only this day, an innocent man would be executed. He was charged with blasphemy, which did not really concern the Romans unless someone was a threat to Caesar. To the Romans, Jesus did not appear to be much of a threat, but to the Jews, He was disrupting the religious hierarchy.
And so, this man, Jesus, needed to be brought to justice – at least in the eyes of the religious leaders among the Jews. Why? Because He healed people? Because He taught about God? Because He showed love?
No, that wasn’t it. But He did those things without also honoring the traditions set by man. And, ultimately, because He claimed oneness with God.
But then, in a prelude to what Jesus would experience Himself, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. This act of mercy – this miracle! – was the final straw, and the religious leaders became determined to kill Him (John 11.53).
And so they found a way to make that happen.
But the sequence of events that led to Jesus’ death, was ultimately not their plan; it was God’s.
Acts 3.15 calls Jesus the Author of life, but if we consider the realities of Genesis 1, John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1, Jesus is also the Creator of time (because He created everything).
So, as we are in the process of considering what it means to redeem the time (Eph 5.16), we must consider that our redemption, and indeed, the redemption of all of Creation (Romans 8.19-23), is a part of Jesus redeeming the time. It was a part of Jesus’ purpose. It is because of Jesus’ love.
The fact is that on the cross, the religious leaders thought that justice had been served. It had. But not as they thought; rather, it was as God had planned. God is both just and the justifier (Romans 3.26), and that justification comes through Jesus.
It is the righteousness of God, available through Jesus that makes us worthy in God’s eyes (Romans 3.21-22). It is nothing that we have done; it is only by what He did. We are unrighteous, but God, in His mercy, made a way for us to be righteous, through faith in Jesus.
And it was on a cross, on a hill, nearly 2000 years ago, that Jesus made that possible.
That day so long ago was a miserable day for those who knew Jesus then. But we know the story did not end on the hill that day. Sunday was coming. It is what happened on Sunday that proves Jesus was who He said He was. It is what happened Sunday that provides testimony that death is not the end. It is what happened on that Sunday, that give us evidence that what Jesus said was real then – and is still real today.
So, remember, reflect, and even celebrate today, but not just because of today. Do so, because today was unlike any other day, which was proven just days later on Resurrection Sunday. Then continue to remember, reflect, and celebrate because of the Hope that the resurrection still brings today. And then continue to remember and reflect (at least) on the truth that Jesus offers even more, and demands even more, because He fully offered Himself to meet every demand necessary so that not only could time and Creation be redeemed, but that we would be redeemed as well.
Today is certainly unlike any other day. And so we must remember. And reflect. And celebrate. And help others to do the same.