Friday, April 10, 2009
This week, Christians all over the world will celebrate a murder. As a matter of fact, if you want to get specific, it was a murder, a betrayal, and pretty much a lynching fueled by a bunch of self-righteous religious prigs. Thomas Merton, writing about this lynching, says that Jesus was put to death on the cross because he did not measure up to man’s conception of his holiness. I think that’s profound. Most people in my tradition will be quick to note that it was we, humankind, who really murdered Jesus. The religious and political leaders were really accessories to the crime, a crime that was first committed in a park years earlier by the first man and woman. But the murder, with its corresponding resurrection, after a short stint in the morgue, was way more than a simple homicide. It was one act in the drama of redemption where God rescues and restores his creation after things go terribly wrong.
Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t God just forgive? Why the big deal about the cross? It’s really not that complex. Lets say I wreck your car. You can force me to pay for it or you can forgive me, which means you end up paying for it. Any way you cut it, someone pays! That’s life. Now, in Christianity, our offenses against God are of horrific proportions. They are way more than just wrecking his car—though I suspect he’d not like that either. These sins, as they are called, are so offensive that we are considered “hostiles” or “enemies.” In fact, by our actions, we’ve declared war on God and God declares it back! Therefore, someone is going to have to pay. Either God pays or we pay!
And because God is both infinitely loving and infinitely just, he chooses to pay for us. (He can’t be loving without being just because it would be unloving to be unjust.) So God enters our world in the person of Jesus and by his exemplary life and sacrificial death, he shows us both how to live and saves us from how we lived. Because he pays the cost of our indiscretions we don’t have to. And by his resurrection he proves that he is God and promises us what’s to come. This payment is received by faith as it would be if I wrecked your car and you chose to pay the damages. He saves us from our self-condemnation and from our self-righteousness. This has profound implications too broad for this post.
I realize that this message is not popular today. I also realize that there is an entire segment of “Christianity” that pays little attention to the propitiatory (Oooo—big word!) element of this and focuses primarily on Jesus as a good example. But that misses the point. Ghandi was a good example. Jesus claimed to be God. At any rate, it’s the reason a significant segment of the worlds population will celebrate a murder. I start celebrating Sunday.