“How could they do that to him?  All he wanted to do was good!”  That is the natural reaction to what we have just heard from Saint John.  Now let us ask, if Jesus is who Christians believe he is – the Son of God – why did he have to die?

The fact is, Jesus not only died as he did, but he foretold it.[1]  Well, if Jesus believed he was obeying the Father’s will, if he embraced it as his life’s work and mission, then the question becomes one about God and God’s will.

The Passion of Christ is not about an sadistic Father God requiring satisfaction for humanity’s sins which can only be met by the sacrifice of his masochistic Son.  [That is the heresy of dividing God.]  In the Passion, God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Undivided Trinity of Almighty Love, takes responsibility for His creation which includes the risk of freedom.  God has allowed for the possibilities of sin by his free agents, angels and mortals, because without freedom there can be no love.  Grief is the price God pays for his love.

Because God is God, He has always foreseen his creatures’ possible misuse of their freedom, their choices not to love and live in obedience to God’s will.  Sin grieves but does not surprise God.  The Mystic Lamb, slain and yet standing alive, seen by Saint John in his Revelation and spoken of by the apostles,[2] is none other than God the Son, Jesus Christ, in perfect unity with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, the Lamb destined from eternity as the world’s Redeemer.  The death of the Son is not a mistake and it is not Plan B after the Fall; it was foreseen by God in his providence. Redemption stems from the same Love that creates all things.  And Sanctification, the gathering of all things into Christ by the power of the Spirit, flows from the same fountainhead.

The Passion of Christ was within God’s providence.  But it was not God who got out the hammers and nails to crucify Jesus.  It was not God who falsely accused Jesus, condemned him, beat and tortured and mocked him, and killed him.  We did that.[3]  It is not God who is dishonest and unjust, selfish and cruel, blood-thirsty and death-dealing. It is important that Christ’s killers be identified, not to fix blame on the Jewish High Priests or Pontius Pilate or the Pharisees or the false witnesses or the betrayers or the deniers or the crowds looking for the spectacle of an execution. These contemporaries of Jesus are faces in a multitude that includes you and me, gathered around the cross.  They are characters like us in one degree or another, potentially or actually, in thought, word or deed, characters like you and me.  I particularly thank God for the restoration of Saint Peter from his impetuosity and cowardice or, a little later on, the conversion of Saint Paul from his lethal righteousness. The great hymn, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” has it right: “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!  ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee.  I crucified thee.”

It is crucial that we understand we all are justly convicted because Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave his life for us. The point is not to be paralyzed with guilt. The point is to respond: to stop, to turn to Christ, to repent, and to be moved by the Holy Spirit into the most creative state of mind that can be had in our fallen world.  The New Testament word for this is metanoia, which means the transformation of a person by the renewal of the mind.  Do not be conformed to this world, says the Apostle, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,[4] that in Christ we who have been slaves of sin may now enjoy the freedom of God’s children.  “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Come as the wind and cleanse, come as the fire and burn, come as the light and shine.  Convict us, convert us, consecrate us, until we are wholly Thine.”

Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin…[But]…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”[5] Jesus enjoyed the perfect freedom that sin forfeits.  Jesus in his union with the Father, in every motion of his body, soul and spirit, lived the life we have not lived but see through a glass darkly.  Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, the One True Human Being, in perfect free obedience came into predestined collision with our sin.  Thank God!  He invaded and re-conquered territory taken by the devil.  He paid the price of sin which none can afford and revealed the value that God places on each one of us.  He restored the possibility of communion and friendship with God and with one another in a new fellowship called the Body of Christ.

Yes, thank God.  That is why the day Christ died is called Good Friday.  And we are able to preach this Good News because on the third day Jesus rose from the dead.   

[1] St. Luke 19:31-34, and several other passages in the Gospels.

[2] Rev 5:6 and throughout subsequent chapters; and I Peter 1:20.

[3] Remark by Jane Williams in her superb video lecture, Why Did Jesus Have to Die?   

[4] Romans 12:2

[5] St. John 8:31-38

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