Two rivers meander through my life: the South Anna River, which I cross every day when I travel to and from the church I serve, and the James River, which defines the city of Richmond in which I live.
The river in Richmond is both treacherous and beautiful. I often cross it and wonder at the rocks and rushing water, but I always admire it from a distance. I know its dangers and I respect them.
Some see the James as an extended beach. And of course, when it gets hot, they take to the beach. When it gets uncomfortably hot, they take to the water. It makes sense, except for the danger. Years ago when the rites of spring were being celebrated, high school students and university students would find their way to the James, and the next day, some tragedy would be reported in the paper: two saved, one drowned. I heard this again and again. "Why," I wondered, "can't they stay out of the James River?"
I wonder if God does not feel a repeated sense of sorrow when he sees his people fail again and again and court danger too great for human frailty. I wonder if his heart did not fail within him as he watched his chosen people repeatedly disappoint him. I wonder why he did not unleash his full wrath, as he was certainly justified in doing.
But then, he did. On Good Friday, all the wrath of God, all the anger and punishment we and God's people so justly deserve, fell upon the Son. It is Christ Jesus who has paid the price for us, once and for all. We need not delude ourselves that we have gotten off scot-free. Someone has paid the price, just as someone has paid the enormous price to rescue the drowning from the James. Helicopters, paramedics, police are all in service at a price -- and this is not even to calculate the price of human suffering and anguish when tragedy occurs.
Jesus offers us, in his dying, forgiveness and salvation. And he pays the price for all that we have done and left undone.
This past Monday, I joined a friend at her home on the south side of the James which overlooks the river. The view is spectacular. I watched the rocks and the water rushing along in the gray, pouring rain. It was bone chilling on that gray day. I was struck anew with the beauty and the treachery of the river.
The beauty of this day, Good Friday, is the gift of God and the life of his Son poured out for many. The treachery of this day is our own. May God have mercy on us and continue to extend to us the gift of Easter as we experience this day and rejoice in its hope.