‘IT IS FINISHED’
We have come to the end of the Passion narrative, as Our Lord says, “It is finished.”
We have heard the story of Jesus betrayed, mocked, physically and emotionally abused.
Who could have done this? We did. In A Matter of Eternity, Dorothy Sayers says:
“God was executed by people painfully like us in a society very similar to our own—in the over-ripeness of the most splendid and sophisticated empire the world has ever seen. In a nation famous for its religious genius and under a government known for its efficiency, he was executed by a corrupt church, a timid politician, and a fickle proletariat led by professional agitators.”
Why did Jesus have to die? What did he “finish” or “accomplish” with a public demonstration of humiliation and diminishment by means of a sadistic instrument of torture?
Is this not the ‘worst-case’ scenario of that unanswerable theological conundrum of THEODOCY: how can a just God allow such horrors to happen to innocent people? But…
THE CROSS IS GOD’S ANSWER
Let us reflect together on three ways in which the cross is God’s answer to theodocy:
- The cross as a sign of God’s vulnerability
- The cross as a defense against idolatry
- The cross as our bridge to intimacy with God
The cross as a sign of God’s vulnerability
Vulnera is the Latin word for wound or injury, therefore to be vulnerable is to be open to hurt, wounding, pain and diminishment
Our Lord’s vulnerability on the cross was the clear indication that God was not impassive to our pain, or unaware of our diminishment; rather, God’s concern for us was so great that God himself would risk injury, rejection and alienation in order to identify with us in love.
Any love relationship is risky—we fear rejection, misunderstanding and betrayal on the one hand, or we can fear our engulfment by the ‘other’—and the deeper our love the greater the risks involved.
God’s love is “so deep, so broad, so high” that God risks death itself to gain our love; but such a love demands a response, God’s risk must be met with our trust.
But no! Would it not be safer for us to have a god of thunder who demands justice rather than love, and shows domination rather than vulnerability? This is where…
The cross as a defense against idolatry
The gods humankind has always preferred are gods made in our own image: gods who will deliver what we want and when we want it. Our culture still worships Zeus, the god of thunderbolts and fury, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love turned to lust.
Against these false gods the cross of Jesus is a brutal reminder of what our God is not—a God who does not make cheap deals with us or bargain for better terms.
The God revealed in Jesus’ crucifixion is too big for our minds to fathom, too generous for our hearts to measure, and too noble for our self-centered souls to encompass.
The cross reminds us that our vision of God is too small, and our grasp of His plan is too short.
But if we cannot come to God on our own terms, how can we connect
The cross as our bridge to intimacy with God
Even as the cross breaks down our petty illusions and false idols, so it also builds a bridge between our limitedness and His immensity of self-giving love.
The wood of the cross becomes the platform for God’s intercession for us. Intercedere is the Latin for “to go between” or to “bridge the gap.”
So that we could have access to God the Father, Our Lord had “to go between” our need and God’s mercy, our imperfection and God’s perfect love.
But it not just on the cross that Jesus intercedes for us, His whole life was one great movement of intercession:
–His incarnation brought the divine into our limitedness
–His ministry brought God’s healing into our woundedness
–His teaching brought God’s wisdom into our ignorance
–His love brought God’s presence into our fearfulness
–His suffering brings God’s forgiveness to our sinfulness
And when Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” he even goes to the gates of Hell—the ultimate alienation—to bring us back into intimacy with His Father.
‘IT IS FINISHED’
Jesus, on the cross, offers Himself to the Father to intercede/to go between/to bridge the gap between our emptiness and God’s immeasurable love.
Even in the total alienation of the darkness of God’s absence, of a God He can no longer see, Jesus still trusts enough to say: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Let us then, both you and I, respond to that invitation to partake of intimacy with God,
And “risking not less than everything,” step out onto the wood of the cross, and walk the “narrow way” across the chasm between our sinfulness and God’s lovingkindness,
–admitting our woundedness
–casting aside our idols, and
–opening up our emptiness
so that we may know the never-ending extent of God’s love for us.