Monday, February 11, 2008

my hope is built on nothing less

The crucifixion makes very little sense to me. It is the emotional and theological core of our religion; it simultaneously echoes pagan myths and completely contrasts with them in import; it is the basis of our hope for salvation, yet for all we depend on it, even as great an event as it was seems at times insufficient. Whole sermons, whole weeks and years and lifetimes of sermons, are devoted to what it means that the Son of God came to earth and died for you and me. Paul writes in one of his letters:
[W]e preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I still get stuck on the stumbling block sometimes.

Here’s the thing: yes, it was terrible. Yes, it may have been the greatest evil ever perpetrated by humankind. But you can’t tell that from the externals. Jesus suffered a unfair trial and half a day or so on the cross. Plenty of people have been tortured way beyond that since. One can look at either the individual or the cultural level and find grotesque acts of violence, hatred, contemptuous murderous evil. We as Christians claim the murder of one good man is the hope for our forgiveness. Every evil deed ever done by any one of us, we claim, can be struck from our record because of the crucifixion. For this to make any sense, it matters who Jesus was.

I’m trying to avoid the “churchy” language, and put these things in my own terms (the way I do with math ideas I barely understand). The language we use shapes our understanding and perception of any topic. Talking (or writing) about our records before God or the perfect sacrifice to redeem humankind seems to dismiss the issue, just because it’s talking with a different set of vocabulary. I want to know how it is that I can hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus—His “blood and righteousness” as the hymn from which the title is taken continues. That means, for now, I don’t have any way to wrap this up, and I’ll probably be dealing with this in writing over a few days.

1 comment:

David said...

Hi Josh - I think you hit it on the head when you said that it matter "who Jesus" is - yes, his death would not be that significant if he were simply a normal person. However, as the Son of God, and true God himself incarnate, and having lived a perfect life in our stead, makes all the difference. The crucifixion wasn't primarily about physical pain and torture, but about the complete separation of Christ from his Father. ("Why have you forsaken me?") which is the true punishment of hell. Just seeing Jesus hanging on the cross is just seeing the tip of the iceberg of what he actually went through. Thanks be to God that He did this in my place! Check out God's blessings to you!