This is the live (now recorded) Facebook feed from the Easter service of my church. Please forgive the imperfections, we are forced to suddenly have to livestream our humble services. But the message is the important part. Be blessed!
“Sold to the Nazarene!” “What!?” The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!”
I went to an auction at the Public Auction Yards in Billings years ago with Ralph, my father in law who was selling his calves. I had not sat in the buyers seats at too many auctions at this point, most of my livestock auction experience had been on the other side of the gate, as a teenager I had worked at Billings Livestock and on sale days it was my job to push the frantic cattle through the banging hydraulic gates and into the noisy sale ring. So anyways, here I sat just to watch. I had a buyer’s card in my hand that I was using just to keep track of how the sale was going. I was just starting to raise up my own herd and I wanted to learn what the buyers were liking.
In the midst of the sale I turned to say something to Ralph and gestured with my hand to the calves in the ring, suddenly the auctioneer acknowledged a bid and the price went up. I had a sinking feeling as I realized the hand I had waved had the card in it and that was how the buyers were signaling their bids—waving their cards. Much to my relief someone else bid up the calves but then I felt like a fool as I sat there with a deer in the headlights look as the auctioneer then looked to me trying to illicit another bid. Not only did I not want the animals being sold, I did not have any money. I learned to keep my hands in my lap when at an auction lest you buy something you don’t want!
Sale day in Jerusalem
There was a day some two thousand years ago now when there was another auction going on. Though you weren’t aware of it you were there; you and the whole human family herded into the sale ring like so many sheep. It was a huge sale and there were a lot of spectators, the sale barn was filled mostly with demons and angels but there were only two buyers; the one known as the Prince of Darkness, the deceiver, and the other, the carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of God.
The auctioneer is the Father himself and he opens the bidding high, eternity is at stake but there are no bids. The auctioneer sings out “Who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid today!”- Some in the ring cry out; “Will no one redeem us!” While others, ignoring the high steel rail wall holding them in, shout them down saying, “No one needs to buy us, we are free!”
What they don’t realize is that they are all slated for slaughter unless they can be redeemed, they may spend some time in blissful ignorance being fattened up first but they are marked for slaughter all the same. There is a debt to pay and this sale is their only hope, the hope that the price paid for them is high enough to pay what is owed because they violated and maliciously abused the free range law of the Kingdom and the law cannot be ignored; no exceptions, no more promissory notes.
Unbeknownst to those in the ring there is a buyer who wants to bid, the gentleman from Nazareth, but he is being prevented from being heard by the other registered buyer. But it turns out Prince Darkness is not really there to bid, he is actually trying to stop the sale altogether claiming that he owns those in the ring because they have been grazing in his pasture for eons and he has every right to lead them to slaughter. “They are wearing my brand!”
The sale goes on, the lone legitimate buyer desperately trying to be heard but no one can hear him over the din of the spectators and even the voices of some of those in the ring shouting that the buyer from Nazareth has no right to bid. “We must hold out for another!” they claim. Suddenly a fight breaks out and the brawling fills the auction barn and it seems that the pretender; Prince Darkness, is gaining the upper hand, he has even managed to strip the other buyer of everything, taken away everything from his clothes to his dignity, even his identity, leaving him nothing with which to bid. The auctioneer, still working every trick he knows to secure a bid, is watching intently the struggle going on in the seats when suddenly he sees two hands go up.
Those in the ring cry out, some with despair and some with jeering exaltation as the auctioneer slams the table top with his open hand and shouts out “Sold to the Nazarene!” “What!?” The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!”
The auctioneer calmly points out that the price he was demanding was in the hands of the buyer when they went up. At this every eye turned to see the blood flowing from the wounds in the hands of the Nazarene. “This was no surrender”, the auctioneer explains; “this was no mistake, the price has been paid, the price set by the original owner to redeem this flock, should it stray, was death—blood.”
“The blood of the Son of God is the price sufficient to purchase the entire flock, the only payment sufficient to cover the debt.” The bidding is closed, the bill of sale being written.
Suddenly the successful bidder falls to the floor and the pretender again shouts out, “He is dead! How can he claim his flock, how can he open the gates and turn out his sheep when he is dead? I win by default! The slaughter is imminent! They all must pay the price on their own because the sale has been nullified!”
The auction barn goes crazy, the spectators, demons and angels, shrieking for joy, or wailing with grief, respectively. While those in the ring all argue over what has just happened.
Just when it seems all is lost and the auctioneer has even been discredited, the high solid gate to the pen is suddenly flung open and there, silhouetted in the sunlight suddenly pouring into the dingy ring is the Gentleman from Nazareth. Silence falls over the auction barn as everyone comes to grips with what has just happened. The Father, the auctioneer just smiles and hands the bill of sale to the Nazarene. The bill of sale signed with blood, notarized by the Spirit and recorded by the Father in the Lambs book of life.
Incredibly, some choose to stay in the ring as many are led by the Nazarene, Jesus by name, into his pasture where they are tended and groomed to be presented to the Father; eyes and coats shining. Some refuse to budge, still not believing that the sale, or the buyer, was legitimate. Meanwhile the pretender is slowly backing his rig up to the opposite gate of the ring ready for the front gate to close. Eager to take every straggler he can to the end prepared for the pretender himself.
Which gate are you going to use? You can’t stay in the ring forever. There are no more bidders, only one had the price required to redeem you. One thing I learned about sheep when I worked the auction yard- you can’t push them like you can cattle, they have to be led. Us cowboys used a halter broke ram, in slaughter houses they use a goat aptly called a Judas goat. A good shepherd doesn’t need a goat or a ram, his sheep know his voice and they follow him. Jesus is the Shepherd, follow him.
2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice….
…Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” John 10:2-20
Are you listening to him, do you hear his voice? Unless you believe he was stark raving mad, you have to choose, choose to listen, or choose to remain in the pen and let the thief, the pretender, lead you to destruction. Choose life, choose freedom- choose Jesus.
“Pain caused by pain healed by pain.”
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4
I’m sure many of you recognize this verse as a saying of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. It’s become so familiar to us that we often just gloss over it and don’t really think about the impact of the statement, or it just becomes an empty platitude that we use to comfort the grieving, like a Hallmark greeting, kind of a ‘there, there, it’ll be all right’— but really; what is that comfort?
When you have lost someone you love, when you cannot imagine facing another day without your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your best friend—anyone you love and depend on to be there in your life—when they are suddenly and irreversibly gone; what is that comfort that Jesus promised us here?
It is, of course, the resurrection. It is the life that we know cannot be snuffed out because of the very thing that we celebrate today—the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the great old Hymn says, “because he lives I can face tomorrow.” I will be comforted, because I know my redeemer lives. I know that I too will l live and that I will be reunited with all those who go before me and all those I leave behind and my grief will seem but a moment in the light of eternity together.
He is Risen
That first resurrection morning the followers of Jesus were in serious grief mode but their sorrow was turned into joy, they were indeed comforted when they heard the reports of the women who discovered the empty tomb and then shortly thereafter when Jesus visited them on several occasions after his resurrection. It is one of the most talked about and documented events in human history—and it changed everything—everything.
It changed the course of human history and the way we see life and death. It made all of Jesus’ radical teachings of love and mercy, forgiveness and charity a part of the human consciousness. For surely without the resurrection it would have all been quickly forgotten by a cruel and selfish world where only the strong and the most violent ruled or had influence. It brought hope to the hearts of humankind, it brought life and it brought healing.
But most importantly, it was a healing, a healing of our relationship with our God, an eternal healing of our dead and dying spirits. In the here and now it offers a healing to or hearts, our minds, and our flesh if we are willing to believe and seek it. But it is a healing that was purchased at the cost of incredible pain, sorrow and grief, a grief that we often don’t recognize like we should and a cost that is so great we can never comprehend it—a cost that was borne by our God.
Greif is pain and pain can only be healed by pain. It is one of those unwritten laws of the universe. God knows this, God grieves over this—and God himself bears the pain that ends the pain.
We in our frail flesh and limited perception sometimes experience what we think is pain beyond bearing, but we always have hope, there is always an end to our pain, and there is always a purpose. It is seldom on purpose, but our God always finds a way to use it for good for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose. We may not understand it nor always believe it but it helps to know that we have a God who does, who suffered and suffers, more than we can ever know.
God the Father knows the pain of loss.
Jesus was taken to a hill outside the city and is nailed through his hands and feet to a rough, blood stained wooden cross. He is then raised up from the ground and left hanging there to die a slow miserable death as the people he had come to save look on, some in horror— some in glee, most in indifference, ‘another day, another crucifixion.’ But there is one watching who is far from indifferent, his Father.
God the Father is watching his very son, the one through whom, for who and by whom he had created all things, become everything ugly and filthy in this evil and messed up world as all of the filth, all of that rebelliousness, all of the selfishness and foolishness that had separated mankind from him so long ago, forcing him to dwell behind a blackout curtain in a tiny room in a stone temple just to be near his people, all of that sin was being placed on his Son as he hung bleeding and gasping for breath on that cross made from wood he had created and even learned to shape with his hands.
be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20,21
We know of course why he did it, so that we could be reconciled to him. But think about it, the sacrifice that this was, the sheer magnitude of the pain and the grief it must have caused both the Father and the Son was for the first time in all of eternity past, the Son was being separated from the Father, separated by the thing most abhorrent to a holy God who is love, sin, the epitome of all things evil and dirty.
He whose Spirit when on the earth dwelled behind a covering of cloth when in the midst of sinful humanity was now seeing his own Son become the thing he had been forced to punish over and over again—his heart breaking every time.
The Father was now being forced to confront his Holy and perfect Son, suffering immensely on the cross, but now enveloped—so immersed in our sinfulness that he became the embodiment of sin, and he had to deal to him the punishment that the law of a just and righteous God demanded; separation from God the Father. Complete separation from all things good, from love, from light itself— true and total death. The light of the world became darkness, life became death and the Father had to turn away.
As a result the heavens went dark, the sun refused to shine and the earth itself trembled and God the Son cried out in anguish rending the heavens with his cries “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
The Father’s heart breaks at that moment, absolute, unspeakable— ‘there are no words to describe the pain, grief and anguish I feel’— heart break. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, takes his last breath and he is gone
The Father looks down and see’s the bloody robe of his son in the hands of the soldiers as they look up at the one whom they have pierced and his anguish and grief demand an outlet and he finds a way, the same way that Joseph’s father Israel had expressed his anguish at the sight of his son’s bloody robe so many centuries ago—Rip!
And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.
38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37—38
The very real, very costly and very heavy cloth veil that separated God from man, that hid his glory from sinful eyes that would never bear up under the sight of seeing a perfect and holy God in his glory, is literally ripped from top to bottom. This was more than just symbolic of the separation between God and man being taken away, the timing says to me that this was God saying ‘I am hurting beyond words at the death of my Son and this is my way of expressing it to you.
God the Father, at the time of his Son’s death was experiencing inexpressible anguish and grief—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?” It was about all the Father could take but he could not intervene, he could not reach out to his Son, this had to be done—for us. All he could do at the moment to express his grief to the universe was to rip his robe. The one thing that had separated all of humanity from seeing him, just as our own clothing hides us.
The rending of the veil, in the end, come to have a much greater meaning. One that would also facilitate our healing, even God’s anger has a higher, loving purpose. For in God’s grief we would find our salvation, our healing, our reconciliation, in the grief of the one who loves us, a grief that we had caused.
God’s grief would later be assuaged by the resurrection of his Son and his return to glory, as Jesus, who had never sinned, who was indeed the Son of God and the Son of man was able to overcome death because death had no claim to him.
And God now rejoices in the reconciliation of all his children back to him—and offers healing for our grief and pain.
Pain caused by pain, healed by pain.