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Two arks

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When God wants to destroy things, he really destroys them. On Good Friday, he didn’t just kill his son; he crushed him, as per Isaiah. If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ you’ve seen the blood, the torn skin, eyes swollen nearly shut, a man hardly stumble through Jerusalem’s streets before they pound nails through his wrists and feet.

All of that just to give us a glimpse, an inkling, a taste of the agony of being a sin offering, of being forsaken by God. Pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, punished for our peace. God showed us death and the hell that follows. Our death and hell.

Because we went astray. God had to correct this once before, as Genesis 7 reminds us. God’s “very good” sadly veered into “very bad”. Adam and Eve eat the fruit, hide from God, and lie to him. Cain smashes his brother’s skull in. Cain’s great-great-great-grandson Lamech invents polygamy and war, “I have killed a man for wounding me.”

Still deeper into the toilet swirl these waters. By Genesis 6, the LORD sees “only evil all the time.” So bad had man made things that “the LORD was grieved that he had made man.” Enough was enough: “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.”

And he did. Forty days and nights of rain, water bursting up from the deep, water crashing down from below killed everything. Birds couldn’t fly high enough. Fish couldn’t swim fast enough. Man couldn’t tread water long enough. All dead. Destroyed. Wiped out. Pierced, crushed, punished for their sins. Bill Cosby made a joke out of it, but the Father is dead-serious, “I brought you into the world, I can take you out of it.”

Except for that little ark floating to and fro upon the waters. That little ark shows us God’s heart. Even as he destroyed his creation, he delivered it. The waters lifted the ark above death, sparing Noah and his family and the animals inside. The family God’s Word brought to faith. The animals God brought to the ark God taught Noah how to build.

Why did God do this? Because Noah was righteous and blameless? Genesis says that. Except God also said men were only evil all the time. Noah too. After the flood God said about Noah: “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” How can both be true?

It’s like the father of that lost son. The son went astray, far astray. He showed the evil inclinations of his heart. “Give me my money, dad. All of it. Now.” And then he spent it on hookers and drugs and booze. He only came home when the money and food ran out. To be fair, he did realize his sin. He despaired of being a son again and planned to confess and repent, “I have sinned against God and against you.” But the father had no way of knowing that as he stood at the end of his driveway looking for his son. All he knew was that his son ran away in great sin. Yet he stood there and waited.

Our heavenly Father knows. He knows what he said in Genesis 6 and 8: by nature we are only evil all the time. Out of our heart comes filth. We grieve the Lord every day with our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Ten Commandments might as well be ten suggestions for the attention we pay them. When we come covered in pig filth, he knows where, how, why.

Yet God called Noah righteous and blameless. He designed the ark and spared a slice of man and animal. He warned them and helped them survive. Even in destruction, in the midst of life and death, God makes a plan. And it’s the little ark, floating among the flotsam and jetsam of an earth made formless and void once more. In the heart-rending words of Genesis 8, “God remembered Noah.” God remembered, even though there was really nothing worth remembering or forcing him to do so. He just did. Like that father.

Maybe those in Jerusalem all those years later thought something like the flood was happening again. Darkness came over the land. The earth shook. The rocks split. The curtain in the temple split exposing the most holy place. Dead man came forth from their graves. Even the pagan soldiers took note of this moment, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

This time, instead of God declaring a man righteous and blameless, it was an actually righteous and blameless God-man caught up in a flood. Not a flood of water, but one man taking upon himself the flood of our sin in his body, the flood of God’s wrath, the flood of being forsaken by God, of completing all that was required so that he could groan, “It is finished.” So that God could do that righteousness declaring. So that he could be that father, waiting. So that he could declare Noah righteous.

Here in the darkness of that day was a second ark, a human ark: prepared by God, fashioned by God, announced by God, given by God. Only this time not made of wood, but God Himself nailed to wood, yet functioning just as Noah’s ark: a place of safety, salvation, and deliverance. To be on this ark, in this ark, connected to this ark, to Christ, means being lifted up above the destroying waters, being lifted up above death, being made alive, in fact: and the just shall live by faith. In Christ. As Noah did.

Our disobedience cursed the world and killed us. Jesus’ obedience brought the blessed exchange: him for me, the righteous for the unrighteous, an ark to carry us. An ark that God gives us by his own righteous decree: “I have done it!” He lifts us up above the killing flood when he baptizes us into Christ, into all Jesus did as our ark, the ark of the covenant: his body, his blood, given once for all, given to me whenever I eat it and drink it, keeping me on this ark, keeping me in this faith that saves, that declares me righteous and blameless in Christ! As God declared Noah.

Two arks. Two floods. God delivered us from both, because he did it. God remembered. A Good Friday indeed, because it’s God’s Friday. Amen.

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