As we come to Easter, I would like to take a moment to speak about where Easter began and by Easter I don’t mean ‘The celebration of Easter involving giving of eggs and stories of Easter bunnies etc…’ but I mean the message of Easter. The Message of Easter is both a story of God’s love and God’s life.
It was God’s love that led to Good Friday, and God’s life was the result that we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday.
It all began in a garden – a garden planted by God for the pinnacle of His creation – people/humankind and it’s a story of God’s love!
I want to read the very first verses in the Bible that mention people or humankind and we will take a look at it because it explains Good Friday. In fact we have to start here if today is going to be seen as good, in regards to the suffering and crucifixion of an innocent man Jesus.
Genesis 1:26-31 (NIV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Then we come to the same story, but an extension of it and it is the second time people or humankind are mentioned in the Bible.
Genesis 2:8 (NIV)
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
We find firstly God’s intent for humankind because there is an important principle when reading or understanding and interpreting the Bible called ‘the law of first mention’.
- This states that the first time the scriptures reference something it gives context for every further mention right throughout the rest of scripture
- It sets the scene, tone, intention for that subject
We have here the first mention of people or humankind, so what do we understand for context through the rest of the Bible from this first mention?
We find God loves us because:
1. God created us in His image to love us!
- This speaks to us about God’s intent to have relationship in a special way with humankind
- We are created like Him to relate to, connect with and have relationship with Him
- We were created in His image and it is why He sees and refers to us as His children and Himself, loving Heavenly Father
- God’s desire is for us to know Him and His love for us
- We see this later when God walks in the cool of the evening to commune and talk with Adam and Eve
- In fact, we see as the great theme of the Bible – God’s love for people
We see God’s love in this because:
2. We are blessed!
The first words spoken about us is ‘And He blessed them…’ God’s intent is to bless us, to give us life!
- So contrary to what so many believe about an angry, kill joy, narcissist God who plays with humanity, or at best ignores it
- God’s intent is not to judge, punish and restrict, but His intent is to bless
- Why? Because God loves us
We also see the tree that gives us choice is put in the middle of the garden
- Why not put it off to the side, or better still, outside the garden
- Because central to God and humanity is love and the ability to choose to love or reject God
- Central to the God and Human existence relationship is the ability to love
Is it possible to truly love without the ability to choose? That is a big question but without the ability to choose we would not have had a loving relationship with God, but a robotic one of laws and rules.
God’s intent has always been to not operate by a bunch of rules but out of love and faith.
But something happened in this beautiful setting and plan, mankind chose to disobey God and eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Sin, brokenness and death entered the world through mankind’s disobedience yet even in this we see the love of God!
Isn’t that the greatest love to value it above challenge, brokenness or failure?
God’s response was so different to what Adam and Eve expected just like so many others today.
- God our loving Heavenly Father, came down to talk with Adam and Eve as it would seem was His custom and Adam and Eve hid because of their shame.
God did a couple of things that lead us to this Good Friday to show the love of God.
God sought them out.
- While humankind hid, knowing their guilt, shame and wrongdoing, God took the initiative and went looking for them, He came to them.
- But He didn’t come to punish them, He came to restore them. Just like John 3:17 says, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
- He took an innocent animal and because of the death that had entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God covered their sin with the life of this animal.
Instead of punishing humankind – God sought to make a way we could still have His original intent – of love and relationship with us.
Then as we follow Adam and Eve out of the garden and into the big wide world and find that this story, this theme continues with Humankind continuing to choose self over God and others. Continually we fall short of God’s intent, we fail, bring shame, sin, brokenness to ourselves and the world around us.
But just like through the entire Bible, God constantly loved and pursued His people.
- When they were slaves in Egypt, He rescued them. We see God pursuing His people.
- They complained and groaned in the desert, disobeying Him again, so He rescued them again giving the ten commandments and a promised land
- Through the ages He sent prophets and mighty men and women of God to help bring people back to His original intent to have relationship with and bless them.
- It seems that over time rather than draw close to relationship with God instead, we simply came up with more rules.
- God gave us one rule – don’t eat the fruit – trust me
- Then gave them ten rules to try to help them
- By the time Jesus arrived they had turned one rule into about 613 rules
But we were missing the point!
God original intent was never for us to have rules, it was love!
God’s special people always seemed stuck in their sin, selfishness and brokenness.
If you are watching online with us today we all share this trait of not seeming to be able to live up to the wonderful and beautiful existence God originally intended and so instead of blessing it brings death, breakdown of relationship, mistrust, brokenness, shame, guilt and the many things that weigh us down and cause us to run from God.
Eventually in the Bible, we come to the person of Jesus.
Having time after time after time been unable to break free of our sin, mistakes and brokenness.
- After no animal being able to truly take away sin, guilt and shame, God took the final and most drastic of measures to bring people back to His original intent of love and relationship and blessing.
He sent Jesus His only Son, perfect, without sin, far greater than any animal sacrifice, to come and give His life for us.
We see God being consistent and He reached out to us again.
While many of us have:
- Hidden from God
- Tried to cover our own shame, guilt and sin with:
- Acquiring money and stuff
- Perhaps even trying to do enough good deeds
- Hoped God would just leave us alone
- If I pretend that He isn’t real and just ignore Him, hopefully I can get by
Yet God’s original intent has never changed. What began in a Garden made to create a special creation Humankind to love and have a relationship with and to bless.
It ultimately came to another Garden – the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed “God is there another way to have your special people?”
- For them to have access to our love
- For them to be saved from their sin and brokenness
- To live in the blessing that You intended
From this Garden Jesus went to the Cross and paid the price for our sin, brokenness, mistakes and failures so that once again we could be made right with God in relationship and know His love and His blessing and life.
1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)
18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
Probably one of the most famous scriptures ever tells us what ultimately took Jesus to the cross.
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Today on Good Friday, it can be looked at as good only because it is not simply a story of:
- A violent death
- A reason we have no excuse
- A good history lesson
- A good moral teacher
But because God so loved the world!
Good Friday is good because it was love that brought it about.
- God’s original intent of mankind/humankind being made in His image so he could love them and have relationship with them has never changed.
Not even anything we have done can change it:
- God still loves us!
- God loves you this morning!
On Resurrection Sunday we want to look at the life of Easter.
Jesus didn’t stay on the Cross and neither should we stay there!
But today, as we take communion, it is special and good because it is the evidence of God’s great love for us.
Suggestions for discussion
- Is it possible to truly love without the ability to choose?
- How grateful does it make you feel to know that God loves you so much and wants to have a relationship with you?