Luke 22:20 explaining what happened at the last supper before Christ died says “He took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament or covenant [ratified] in my blood, which is shed (poured out) for you.” A cup of wine in the Old Testament signified the wrath of God.
The wrath of God, His judgement of all we have done or may do wrong. Often we look at the word judgement and get uncomfortable, believing what an uncaring, unjust God. However, are we not familiar with it. Would we not judge that a person who stole a car needed to be punished in some way? Is not judgement when done in an impartial sense akin to justice? And yet do we not also know in our humanness that we all at one stage in our lives do something wrong?
It was Shakespeare who wrote ‘Though justice be thy plea, consider this— That in the course of justice none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,….” Meaning if we focus on true justice (doing no wrong) for all let us pray very hard because if we take this path we shall none of us see heaven without mercy (unwarranted forgiveness). And in the bible we read, “Mercy triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13)”
Christ’s death on the cross bought the triumph of God’s mercy and grace over judgement into the history of the human story. God through Christ could be both just and merciful because Christ took the payment for all human wrongs. Remember Jesus’s statement before he went to the cross, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take away this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You [will]. (Mark 14:36).” Jesus knew the pain he was to endure.
When Jesus was talking about the cup of wine at the supper before he died being the New Testament he was alluding to the fact that his blood sacrifice was the last sacrifice which would be needed for the forgiveness of our sins (all we (the human race) have done or may do wrong) from that point on.
I experienced healing one day at a church service after praying in my heart that if Christ really died 2000 years ago paying for sin then I needn’t continue paying for the consequences of the sins committed against me. I cried. I had carried that pain for over 30 years, at times it was unbearable, yet it hit me that it was only a tiny portion of what Christ felt on the cross when he died. This is I believe is a key to the healing offered through Jesus but a topic full of mystery and depth which I do not have the knowledge to fully understand.
At times I have struggled with forgiveness. My mind searches for a reason to forgive so my mind can see it as the right thing to do when my heart doesn’t really want to. Perhaps the person was justified in their actions because of past experiences, or perhaps their motivation for what they did was right in their eyes even if what they did was wrong. I am really trying to justify wrong.
However, recently it dawned on me (I am not always that fast on the uptake). I was taking the wrong approach. Although for years I had understood Christ’s command to forgive as I have forgiven you I didn’t really get the application.
Then it came. God forgives me for those times I slip up, for the the people I may have hurt… I won’t start the endless list. This when I learn to appropriate it fully is freedom, freedom from guilt, the need to hide what I have done, to try to make up for what I have done (which we can not do by the way), and from condemnation (eternal judgement).
The shift – my search for a reason to forgive shifted from attempting to justify man’s wrongs away, to acknowledging what was done was wrong and yet forgiving because I have been.
Through Christ we can choose justice and mercy – but mercy has the final say.
Easy, no. Simple, no. Costly, yes – ask Jesus.