We learn about Jesus through what is presented to us in the New Testament. What we have there is a collection of writings that were either written by eye witnesses to Jesus or by people who personally knew eye witnesses. The New Testament authors, most of whom faced death because of their convictions, were certain about what they had seen and heard. These stories about the crucifixion of Jesus come from those who witnessed it. We are also told in the New Testament writings that to proclaim Christ crucified as the essential history changing reality is foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block to Jews. Greeks sought understanding. They were thorough and deep logical thinkers. For them our rational minds have to be able to fully comprehend and make sense of reality. The Jews acknowledged that God’s actions could be greater than or outside of our ability to reason them through. God was a God of miracles and miracles don’t always fit with our rational understanding. But miracles were always life giving. God blessed those in God’s favour and if you were not being blessed you were not in God’s favour. The scriptures warn us, tell us, that the proclamation of the cross of Christ is going to challenge our sensibilities on every level. It will provoke hostility and scorn. It will raise questions for us that leave us uncomfortable. But the witnesses of the truth, the witness of Jesus were freed by true humility. The humility that comes from discovering truth that is outside oneself, independent of one’s imagination or one’s feelings. They are inviting us, calling us to take the humble knee and embrace the life giving, life freeing truth before us this day.
Jesus is neither solely divine nor solely human he is fully both. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) We love the stories of Jesus encountering people who were suffering because of some illness and Jesus gently reaching out in love, touching them and healing them. Or the images of Jesus putting his arms around little children and picking them up onto his knee and loving them and honouring them. We love the stories of Jesus encountering people like the woman at the well who have had emotionally challenging and tragic lives and lifting their spirits and filling them with life. We love the stories where Jesus affirms life, where Jesus helps lift our spirits and our hopes. We might be a little more challenged by the stories where Jesus encounters a person who had something go wrong with the development or working of their eyes, or legs, or ears even before they were born and then he somehow reconstructs these broken parts of their bodies and makes them fully functional for the first time in their lives. Or the stories where people, some adults some children, have died, life has left them, yet Jesus speaks and they live again. Or the stories where storms begin to rage, winds and rough seas and Jesus speaks and nature listens and all is calm. We like the all is calm. We welcome the all is calm into our lives. Who doesn’t want to be physically stronger and better and healthier. Who doesn’t want the storms that threaten their lives calmed. Who doesn’t want the thirst of their souls quenched with living water.
But then we come to today. The day where those loving caring hands of Jesus that held children and touched the unwanted are nailed to a cross. Where those loving caring eyes have blood from a crown of thorns pressed into his head running over them. The day where those loving caring feet that carried him to people in need are nailed to a cross. A day where apparently brutality, inhumanity, cruelness, injustice seem to win the day. We all try and protect our lives from such violent injustice. It’s there all around us seemingly creeping closer all the time. As humans we long for peace and justice. When injustice happens to us we want it undone. But when we look out at the depth of the injustice, the cruelty, the evil in the world our imaginations cannot perceive how the scales could ever be balanced. Jesus knowingly walks into the darkness of humanity with open loving arms saying Father forgive them they know not what they do.
Jesus is neither solely divine nor solely human he is fully both. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5-8) It was an infinite person who suffered on the cross according to his human nature and thus his suffering was of infinite efficacy and value —God has balanced the scales of justice with his own blood! The infinitely worthy son bears the consequences and weight and destruction of humanities sin, of our sin, in his own human body and soul for us.
God loves us! God loves you! Not because of what Jesus does, but Jesus does, what Jesus does, because God loves us. Jesus is God’s love. “While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us”. God is not moved from wrath to love because of Christ’s death. God is moved by love to stop at nothing, even death on the cross to rescue us from the darkness and destruction of our sin. God shed God’s blood for you! The idea that God is an angry deity requiring a sacrifice to propitiate his wrath is surely more like an ancient pagan god then the Father of Jesus Christ. The scale of justice needs to be balanced. We as humans know that. We as humans demand that. Love demands justice. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Today we gather at the foot of the cross to gaze upon Jesus hanging there. Do you know who you are looking at? Do you know what he has done for you? May we surrender our lives to the love of God, Christ our Lord and saviour this day. “In him is life”.