If these things were done to the green tree, what had been the case of the dry tree? O love unutterable and inconceivable! How glorious is my love in his red garments!
― John Flavel
Lenten Reflection: Mercy and Fidelity
The Park Forum
The first Good Friday would not have been a day of rest as much as a day of emptiness. Had the disciples grasped the spiritual aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, in the early hours after the crucifixion, their words likely would have foreshadowed those of John Flavel. The 17th-century puritan declared, achingly, “O how inflexible and severe is the justice of God! No abatement? No sparing mercy; no, not to his own Son?”
On one hand we want the penalty for sin to be harsh—the evil that has been inflicted on us deserves justice. On the other, we are unable to pay if justice requires from us what we demand for others. Flavel, in the twentieth sermon of his series The Fountain of Life Opened Up, acknowledges both—first explaining how sin’s harsh penalty bears fruit in our lives:
Oh cursed sin! It was you who used my dear Lord so; for your sake he underwent all this. If your vileness had not been so great, his sufferings had not been so many. Cursed sin—you are the sword that pierced him!
When the believer remembers that sin put Christ through all that ignominy—and that he was wounded for our transgressions—he is filled with hatred of sin, and cries out, O sin, I will revenge the blood of Christ upon you! You shall never live a quiet hour in my heart.
The harshness of the penalty, as recorded in Scripture, is eclipsed only by the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice. In laying down his life Christ demonstrated the strength of his mercy and depth of his fidelity. Only on these, Flavel concludes, can we securely anchor our lives:
It produces an humble adoration of the goodness and mercy of God, to exact satisfaction for our sins, by such bloody stripes, from our surety. Lord, if this wrath had seized on me, as it did on Christ, what had been my condition then!
This begets thankfulness and confidence in the soul—Christ is dead—and his death has satisfied for my sin. Christ is dead—therefore my soul shall never die. Who shall separate me from the love of God?
The Call to Prayer
I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” — Psalm 142:5
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.