The Death of Jesus
by Rev Gary Heard
The Apostle Paul described the christian message as something of a conundrum: “but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” From the first century onward, the cross of Jesus presents itself as a problem. Year after year as we are confronted not only with the image of Jesus on the cross, we are drawn to consider why he was there.
There are political answers: Jesus had become a threat to the ruling elite, and as a result needed to be dealt with. There was a delicate balance of peace between Israel and Rome, and Jesus was challenging that. At the same time, Jesus was appealing to the broad masses, and threatened a popular revolt against the leadership of the day.
But the implications of Jesus’ death have long been seen as being more than a temporary political struggle. As an answer it is insufficient.
There are cosmic answers: Jesus was crucified for our sins, settling the problem caused at the fall, and overcoming the power of death through the resurrection so that we might all go to heaven.
Some people resile at the notion of an innocent person suffering on behalf of the guilty. That Jesus should have gone to the cross for our sins presents a notion of a God who is vengeful and uncaring. A Buddhist Imam once described it to me as akin to putting an innocent person in jail because someone broke into your house – an abhorrent notion.
But the implications seem to be more than just about “pie in the sky when I die”
There is an example: Jesus called us to follow Him, and in dying on the cross was giving the supreme example of love, inviting us too to follow Him in laying down our lives for others.
But we could never give in the same way that Jesus gave through his death.
Also worthy of consideration is the human response to the presence of God: how easily we drive away the one who comes to love truly. In Christ, God has reached out to us. It was all we could do to crucify Him.
The death of Jesus confronts us with some hard truths, and an expression of love which is beyond comprehension. It does seem foolish - at one level - for God to act in such a way. But then, acts of love are not always logical, are they?
God has reached out to us in Christ. Those arms on the cross are spread wide in the offer of an embrace… Will you let God embrace you?
May 23, 1993
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