After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3b)
In 2003, the more recent President Bush appeared aboard the aircraft character U.S.S. Lincoln, commending combat troops returning from Iraq beneath a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.” Had he known then that the most deadly days of American involvement in Iraq lay ahead and that the hostilities would drag on for years, providing a ready point of focus for his critics, I’m sure Mr. Bush would have opted for a different, less triumphant message. Perhaps he should have read E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, in which an older English man, when presented with the idea of calling in the army to set straight native unrest, comments that “The army sets one thing straight and leaves five things crooked.” As much as I appreciate the dedication of military persons, I recognize that military solutions, like all human solutions, are imperfect, impermanent, and imprecise.
Not so with the Son of God! Just a few days ago, Christians around the world celebrated Resurrection Sunday. It’s on that matter that I would like to dwell for a moment. The Resurrection or Easter represents the high point of the Christian calendar. But Good Friday actually represents the most important work done to provide purification for our sins. Had Jesus simply died of a disease, like Lazarus, then his renewal of life would have meant very little. Had he simply been crucified and then remained in the grave, then his sacrifice would have meant very little.
That’s not how it worked. A t the risk of trivializing Jesus providing purification for our sins, I’d like to compare it with the use of a credit card. If you attempt to purchase a new BMW using a credit card, you’re likely to be disappointed. Most of us do not have that sort of available credit. If I were to stroll by and mention that I had a $50,000 limit on my American Express, you might be intrigued, but you wouldn’t start pulling on your racing gloves. First of all, I would have to lay that card on the counter. That’s what Jesus did when he allowed himself to be arrested, tried, and executed. But even if I did lay the card down, you wouldn’t be ready to drive off. You’d wait to be sure that the transaction went through, that my card could actually buy that automobile. Easter morning provided that confirmation, it proved that Jesus had been not only willing to provide purification but that he’d been able to do so.
With that work done, Jesus tidied up a few things and then ascended back to the Father, seating himself at the right hand of God. The sins of all who have trusted in him, past, present, and future, had been purged. That’s a mission well accomplished.