The 4 irregularities of Holy Week
This week presents a commemoration of four irregularities from 20 centuries ago that yet can be fiercely held even to this day.An All-Powerful Person of a Triune God incarnates so He can physically die. This is the First Irregularity. God becomes human and dies.
Why He dies a savagely cruel death is to demonstrate love for fallen mankind. The incarnated Christ claimed, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends.”
Crucifixion is insanely barbaric. Today’s civilized world has humanized capital punishment; human laws put the guilty to painless sleep until death.
Yet the God who invented time stepped into history when an empire had perfected crucifixion for its erring vanquished. Today, this Roman torture device has become Christianity’s emblem. For Christians, the cross had completely reversed its atrocious stigma in a manner the gas chambers could never undo its Holocaust shadow. The hideous hate instrument had strangely morphed into a symbol of love.
But Christ’s death on the cross more than proves love. Motivated by love, it claims to solve the sin problem.
Sin offends. It places a wedge between the Offender and the Offended. Humans experience this among themselves when they offend one another. Relationships are broken.
When humans violate the moral law, they know through conscience that they offend a moral God. The uneasy feeling is labeled guilt. And so their relationship with God is also broken.
To restore any relationship severed by offense, three things become needful: Restitution and Repentance by the offender, and Forgiveness by the offended.
When the offender steals a mobile phone, it is only right that he returns the phone. Just restitution demands an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth: Lex Talionis. Hammurabi rightly chiseled in stela this code long before Moses wrote it in the Torah.
In the Hebrew Bible, the just restitution for sin is death. The Jews understood this principle because God instituted the offering of animal sacrifices. But the Jews also knew animals do not sin. It was them.
The practice was to be realized much later as the foreshadow of what was to come—when the much prophesied sinless Lamb of God incarnates and finally offers His life, not only for the Jewish sinners but for all of mankind.
This is the Second Irregularity that baffles: Instead of the Guilty Offender paying up, the Sinless Offended pays.
The Christ, mangled and naked, hangs on three spikes tearing the ligaments. He rubs a lacerated back against the prickly timber if only to push Himself up and catch precious oxygen.
In torment for six excruciating hours, He penultimately cries out, “It is finished.” In Greek, the word is “tetelestai,” a commercial term for “paid in full”—the singular act of Restitution, once and for all time.
This brings us to Repentance. The one who stole the phone can choose not to be sorry even after the phone has been returned. Instead of seeking forgiveness, the Offender rationalizes the wrongdoing. It is absurd to expect that the broken relationship will ever be restored. More absurd is to say the Offender has repented yet refuses to return the stolen phone. Excuse the pun, but the repentance is phony.
The one who truly repents for having stolen the phone will not scheme to steal again. Repentance is contrite admission of sin and willful turning away from it. “Sin no more,” Jesus tells the woman caught in the act of adultery.
Next is Forgiveness. Can forgiveness be expected from an Offended God?
Herein lies the Third Irregularity: The Sinless Offended pays BEFORE the Guilty Offender even gets to repent. The cross proffers Forgiveness even before Repentance happens.
Like the offended yet forgiving father of the proverbial prodigal son, the Offended God longs for the Offender to return genuinely repentant. True love always has the propensity to forgive, because the Offender’s value to the Offended trumps the Offender’s sin. While nailed, the Christ cries, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Now, how does the Guilty Offender know all three Irregularities aren’t a hoax ? They’re all too irregular and even too good to be true. Well, there is the Fourth Irregularity. Christ dies then resurrects, just as He claimed. This is the Fourth Irregularity: A dead man rises on the third day.
All Four Irregularities await only one thing for the relationship severed by sin to be restored: The Repentance of the Guilty Offender.
When one repents and believes all Four Irregularities, one humbly receives Jesus as the Christ. In fact, at the point of contrite faith, God becomes father as one becomes God’s child—a relationship consummated in the Christ and sealed by the Spirit.
John writes, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
And Paul writes, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying. “Abba! Father!”
Those two, John and Paul, and a few others who witnessed the Four Irregularities, preached unafraid of persecution and martyrdom. It’s insane to suffer and die for what one knows to be a ruse.
Those of us who weren’t there are faced with the question of whether these Four Irregularities are truths to embrace or mere legends to wave away.
Didn’t Jesus the Christ say, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”?
* * *
Joseph Christopher N. Barrameda is founding director of The Abba’s Orchard, a high-fidelity Montessori school system in 13 campus locations.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.