Jesus, Our Restorer — Good Friday

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 5.15-16
15 “When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. k It is a guilt offering. 16 They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven. 

Leviticus 6.2-7
2 “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving a neighbor about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbor, 3 or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit—4 when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering. 6 And as a penalty they must bring to the priest, that is, to the Lord, their guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. 7 In this way the priest will make atonement for them before the Lord, and they will be forgiven for any of the things they did that made them guilty.” 

Reflection: Jesus, our Restorer — Good Friday
By John Tillman

In the Levitical code, peace with God came through atoning for sin toward God, but many offerings also required restorative justice.

If the repentant had harmed another person or defiled something holy, they brought a typical sacrificial animal to God and, on the same day, paid restitution to the victim that was 120 percent of the value of the loss.

God is not solely concerned with our forgiveness and restoration of relationship with him. He is also concerned with us seeking forgiveness and restoration with our neighbors. As we ponder Christ’s sacrifice on this Good Friday, let us see how he treated those harmed by his followers. 

As Jesus hangs on the cross dying for sin, somewhere walking around with two ears instead of one, is Malchus. In the garden, Peter had struck him and cut off his ear. Jesus not only rebuked Peter, telling him to put his sword back in its place, he put Malchus’s ear back in its place, healing him with a touch. (Luke 22.50-51; John 18.10-11)

Later, lurking near Jesus’ trial, Peter is confronted by a relative of Malchus, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” (John 18.26-27) We don’t know for sure, but this question could sound a bit like, “Didn’t you attack my relative with a sword?” Peter responds with louder and viler curses and anger at these accusations, until the cock crows and he runs, weeping, into the night.

Even in the intensity of his own suffering, Christ healed those Peter attacked and forgave those Peter cursed at.

Who have we harmed, swinging our swords, wild to defend our Lord Jesus? (Who needs no defense from us.)
Who have we been afraid to face because of what we have done?
Who have we cursed in our anger and fear?

The Levitical code spends significant time discussing sins done in ignorance. What sins are we a part of, yet ignorant of? Sins of systemic lust? Systemic greed? Systemic racism?

Who have we allowed to suffer because they are “sinners”?
Who have we refused to help because they opposed us politically or economically?
Whose suffering and torment have we ignored, glazed over, minimized, or contributed to?

May we weep like Peter. But may we also remember that Jesus will come to us to restore us.

Do we love Jesus?
May we put down our swords and feed his lambs.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 5 (Listen – 3:35) 
Psalms 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 6 (Listen – 4:17), Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)
Leviticus 7 (Listen – 5:13), Psalms 7-8 (Listen – 2:58)

Read more about The Sword Versus The Cross
Some have been like brash, foolish Peter, swinging away with a sword of vengeance—we must put it away.

Read more about The Commission of Truth
The first verse in Leviticus chapter five, identifies a unique kind of sin—the sin of not testifying to the truth when it is called for.

Honoring The Truth

Psalm 5.9
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
   their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
   with their tongues they tell lies.

Reflection: Honoring The Truth
By John Tillman

A common theme taken up by many psalmists, including David’s pleas from today’s reading, is being slandered by one’s enemies.

The Scriptures, and Christ himself, see clearly that not every accusation is motivated by a desire for truth or justice. But in our culture, many have stooped to the level of conspiracy theorists when defending the leaders they love. Some communities have chosen to shame accusers, rather than listen to them and investigate. This is harmful to the cause of truth because it discourages anyone, anywhere from reporting anything.

Yesterday we examined a scripture telling us that those who withhold information about wrong-doing, bear part of the responsibility. If we, because of shaming and blaming victims who report abuse, suppress the truth from coming out, we also bear part of this blame.

How can we honor the call for testimony, while dealing with the reality of potential slander and false accusations? How can we give proper scrutiny to testimony without discouraging truth-tellers from coming forward? There are no easy answers. Here are three principles we can apply.

Be guided by reputation, but not blinded by it. While it is true that a good reputation is valuable (Proverbs 22.1, 1 Timothy 3.7) and can save someone from a false accusation, we cannot allow a good reputation to blind us to potential wrongdoing, prevent us from due diligence, or cause us to treat those bringing accusations in an unloving manner.

Follow the example of Jesus. Peter counseled persecuted church leaders to follow Christ’s example. Christ, “did not retaliate…made no threats,” and “entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” With Christ’s example before us it is inexcusable for believers to allow accusers (even false accusers) to be threatened or to seek retaliation against them. We must pray for and pursue the truth and trust that even if earthly justice fails, God’s justice, provided through Christ, never will.

Remember that it could be true. Even though today’s psalm from David is the cry of an innocent man who was slandered, eventually there came a day when accusations against David were true. Nathan’s words, “you are the man” stand as a prophetic example for every Christian. We all need to be prepared to speak this way to well-loved leaders when needed.

Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one. As followers of Christ, the Truth, we should ask, seek, and knock, not giving up until the truth is revealed.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling… — Psalm 43.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 6 (Listen – 4:17) 
Psalm 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

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Read more about You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
Everyone challenges those they oppose to change. Followers of Christ are called to challenge the communities and individuals we are closest to.

Read more about In the Face of Mockery and Shame
We, as a culture, demand to shame others. We seem to think it is our right. The mob justice of destruction and vengeance through shame is the only system of justice our culture trusts.