TODAY Christians around the world commemorate the sacrifice Christ Jesus made by enduring crucifixion in order to save mankind. It is a solemn time and, for some, a very sad one. Yet there is another side to this day that deserves as much, if not more, attention. It is the great love--the love of God, really--that lay behind Jesus' life and works, including this ultimate sacrifice.
John's Gospel says succinctly, ``God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
This salvation was illustrated throughout Jesus' ministry by the healing work he did, and by his ability to discern moral as well as physical defects and to cure those who suffered from them. If that had been the sum total of his works, it would still have been significant. Jesus, however, knew that his mission extended beyond his own personal efforts. This love of God that he wanted to convey to others--and its promise of healing, happiness, and salvation-- was accessible to all people through all time.
He wanted each of us to feel God's love as he did, to have the same confidence in God's power to save, and to know Love's presence in our lives.
This, of course, was a wonderful ideal that would be easy to discuss intellectually and perhaps keep on a mental shelf somewhere. But what Jesus was presenting was quite different. His life up to the time of the crucifixion might have stood as an example of a truly spiritually-minded man. But once he endured the cross, he had effectively illustrated the unrelenting steadfastness of God's love for man. In other words, this isn't a love that happens within the intellect or on especially sunny days or when everything is going just right. This redeeming power of Love--of God--reaches into the darkest night, into the loneliest place; it preserves life and restores freedom.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains this point in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She says: ``The efficacy of the crucifixion lay in the practical affection and goodness it demonstrated for mankind. The truth had been lived among men; but until they saw that it enabled their Master to triumph over the grave, his own disciples could not admit such an event to be possible. After the resurrection, even the unbelieving Thomas was forced to acknow ledge how complete was the great proof of Truth and Love."
This life-preserving Truth and Love is God, and it does not ``condemn the world but saves it. We each can know this love no matter how rich or poor we are, no matter how promising or unpromising our prospects.
We begin to know God, Love, simply by acknowledging that He exists and that we can never be separated from Him. He actually is our divine Parent, our real Father and Mother, and He will never abandon us. Jesus proved this to be true when he was able to rise from the tomb through this love of God.
Following Jesus' teachings, we learn that we are actually spiritual. We know and feel God's presence as we learn to think and live our spirituality. This means being merciful with others, having patience with them and ourselves, striving to establish harmony where there appears to be discord, expressing love to the very best of our ability.
Such efforts are a practical proof of our true being as sons and daughters of God. They begin a transformation in us. And they have beneficial impact on those around us. We begin to understand that man is not a mixture of matter and Spirit but is truly and totally spiritual. And we find that being spiritually-minded is not only enjoyable and good--it brings tangible healing to our lives and to those around us.
At first this healing may come about in simple ways. When we are afraid, for example, it becomes natural to turn in prayer to God and to find help and peace. If we are confused or uncertain, we can pray to know God, infinite divine Mind, is present and providing the intelligence and wisdom we need. In trouble, we discover that turning to divine Truth reveals to us more and more of our spiritual nature and our ability to express qualities such as strength, joy, and love. It is this spiritual knowledge tha t heals--us, our friends and neighbors, ultimately the world. We truly honor Jesus when we make these efforts to walk in his footsteps.
On this Good Friday, then, let's be sober-- recognizing the courageous nature of Jesus' sacrifice in behalf of humanity and the challenge to good that the cross can represent. But let's also be grateful and quietly joyful at the proof of God's love that is the actual outcome of the crucifixion in the form of Jesus' resurrection. This love of God is also ours to call upon. And as we express it in our own lives, we too will be saved.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. . . . And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.
Matthew 28:1, 5, 6