“This is the time of fulfillment”

While meditating on the Scriptures for today, these two passages stood out to me.  Again, you can read them in context by following the link to the right. 

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.

I know that it is often hard to understand why Jesus is so often depicted as crucified on a cross.  Especially when His resurrection is the true foundation of our faith. We have lost the sense of shock and repulsion that could accompany death by crucifixion.  In fact, when St. Paul preached Christ Crucified, it was a scandal to the Jews, whose Law taught them that “cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.”  How could God’s Beloved be subject to such a horrible death? Wouldn’t he conquer the kings of the world with legions of angels and take over his rightful throne as Lord?

As we are seeing, God does not act in ways that we expect. Just last week, after Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, Jesus explained he would be rejected and killed before rising again.  The disciples could not tolerate such talk.  But as the first passage we read today tells us, there is a definite reason why Jesus suffered – to lead us to God. But why? Couldn’t there be a better way to find God?  The passage indicates that Jesus was righteous, while those he suffered for were unrighteous.  An unrighteous person is far from God.  They are slaves to sin.  They are filled with contempt, selfishness, pride, and many other obstacles to God.  Jesus, who was an innocent man, had every reason to protest his sentence of death.  But instead, He offered himself as a “spotless lamb” to God, not to satisfy a bloodthirsty god but rather to demonstrate to us what true love does and is.  “Greater love than this no man has – to give his life for his friends.”  Jesus’ love was so great, he not only gave his life for his friends, but also his enemies.  If we love only those who love us, what reward shall we have?

After John had been arrested,  Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

This is the beginning of Jesus’ preaching.  He is telling us the time is NOW to open ourselves to God and His reign.  Then he uses two verbs – REPENT and BELIEVE.  These will be our responsibilities as we move through Lent.  As you may know, the word “Gospel” means good news.  Here in the midwestern state in which I live, there is a seemingly endless stream of bad news – job cuts, home foreclosures, and families struggling to survive.  Let us not hesitate to embrace Good News, because then we will be “like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”  Let us build ourselves upon the rock that is the Gospel.

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