Why A Crucifixion?

February 13, 2013 in Theology · 4 comments

Crucifixion

Tony Jones, as part of hit #prog­GOD chal­lenge, asks: why a Crucifixion?

There’s a whole lot of the­ol­ogy wrapped up in such a sim­ple ques­tion, but rather than delv­ing into all the vary­ing views of the atone­ment or tediously exeget­ing Scrip­ture I’m just going to share some thoughts that come to mind when I think about the crucifixion.

Why a cru­ci­fix­ion? So there could be a res­ur­rec­tion! The cru­ci­fix­ion is all about the res­ur­rec­tion. When we stop at Christ’s death on the cross, we’ve cut the story short — we’ve turned the TV off at the final com­mer­cial break, we’ve left the movie the­ater mid-film to go get more pop­corn, we’ve dozed off in bed a few chap­ters shy of the novel’s end. Ask­ing “why the cru­ci­fix­ion?” is a glass half-empty sort of ques­tion, it’s a total downer when we already know that the story isn’t a tragedy, it’s a vic­tory. The cru­ci­fix­ion is about look­ing for­ward, about know­ing that the best is yet to come, that Good Fri­day is always fol­lowed by Easter and that despair will ulti­mately suc­cumb to hope.

Jesus had to die because we have to die. We’re sickly, frail, petty, self-obsessed, greedy, screwed-up peo­ple who will all die. And God became one of us and saw that expe­ri­ence through to its inevitable end. But for Jesus death wasn’t the end of the story. It wasn’t why he came here. He didn’t just show us how to die bravely, how to go out with a dig­nity and honor. He didn’t merely go to the cross cry­ing “Free­dom!”, he didn’t sim­ply die try­ing teach human­ity the truth about our­selves, nor did he sto­ically endure the vio­lence of the world in order to show us a bet­ter way. Of course in some respects he did do all those things — but what he truly accom­plished was to turn our expec­ta­tions com­pletely upside down. By allow­ing him­self to be put to death in a vio­lent, humil­i­at­ing and pub­lic way and then by over­com­ing that death, he deci­sively rejected and refuted all the hate and sin and despair and anger and frus­tra­tion that plagues our lives and haunts our deaths.

Why a cru­ci­fix­ion? So that God, incar­nate in Jesus, could once and for all say “Look, here I am! I’m one of you! I endured with you and for you and died as one of you. The same power that sus­tained me and guided me will now sus­tain you and guide you. And just as I con­quered death — so, some day, will you too!”

The cru­ci­fix­ion is but a stop­ping point on the way to the res­ur­rec­tion, a moment in time that, while deeply sig­nif­i­cant, pails in com­par­i­son to God’s larger plan for human­ity. The cru­ci­fix­ion is God’s love, embod­ied in Jesus, put through pain and suf­fer­ing and finally death and risen vic­to­ri­ous so that we may know with­out a doubt that “nei­ther death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor pow­ers, nor height, nor depth, nor any­thing else in all cre­ation, will be able to sep­a­rate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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