Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day we remember the Passion of the Cross of Christ. We will remember it if we perhaps attend a Good Friday service. We may spend a bit of time meditating on the passages of Scripture that show Jesus being tortured and crucified. We may even watch Mel Gibson’s Passion Of The Christ again. We won’t spend too much time on the death of Christ, though. Death is boring. We want life—abundant life. We want the fun of the resurrection. Tomorrow we wear black, while Sunday is for bright colors and “He is risen indeed” greetings. Tomorrow we will not greet fellow believers with “He is dead. He is dead indeed.”
We rush past the death and burial of Jesus because there is seemingly nothing in it for us. If there is no resurrection, says St. Paul, we are just a bunch of miserable people. And so we are. We are lousy, miserable SOBs who turned our backs on our Creator and went our own way. And worse yet, we somehow have convinced ourselves that God felt really sorry for us and sent Jesus to die so we might maybe possibly come back to God. See? we think we hear God saying. I love you so very much I sent my son to die for you. Now will you believe me? Please oh please oh please come back to me. And now it is all up to us whether we can be bothered with this most Divine Act. We live life so bass ackward it is a wonder why we have eyes that look forward instead of to the rear.
I have some news for us all. The Cross is not for us. It is not about us. The Cross is about Jesus. It begins and ends with the Son of God. The crucifixion of the Christ was not a patchwork plan by the Father. It is not Plan B to make up for failed Plan A. The Cross was God’s plan from before the Big Bang. The death of Jesus is as much a part of creation as is the Horsehead Nebula or flowering redbud trees or ripe red raspberries. It was God’s plan all along for the Creator to become a creation and to die. He did this not for our sakes but for his.
And the question before us is this: Why? Why would God spin the entire magnificent universe into existence simply to end up dead on a tree that himself made?
Let’s get one thing straight right away. When Jesus died, he died. I think, since we know that he rose from the grave, we tend to think his death was no big deal. It’s like we think Jesus just took some time off. A three day weekend, as it were. But the Cross is not the Cross if it did not mean the end of the life God. When they took the body of Jesus down from where it had hung and bled, there was no longer any life in it. The resurrection is not a miracle if Jesus didn’t die. And if his body died, so did all of him. Where there once was a carpenter’s son named Jesus, there was now a lifeless and thoughtless body.
This is vital if we are to get even the smallest glimpse of God’s purpose in all of this. (I really don’t think we can get more than a tiny glimpse of the purpose of the Cross, no matter how long or hard we look at it.) Jesus’s thoughts ceased. Where there once was a mind, there was now simply a void in space and time, a black hole of nothingness. Do you see this? When Jesus cried out his last on that Good Friday the Temple veil was torn in two from top to bottom. There was another tearing, another rending in two at the same time. Where Jesus once held thoughts in his mind, there was now a parting of the sea of consciousness. A sea of terrible nothingness lay beyond that veil. And that is where God has cast our sin—into the sea of nothing.
I am He who wipes the slate clean and erases your wrongdoing.
I will not call to mind your sins anymore.
Where did our sins go if they are beyond the knowing of the omniscient God? How can God wipe clean the slate of our wrongdoing? Isaiah says God will not “call to mind” our sins anymore. How can this be? Could it be that in the moment of his death God placed all of our sin—and his thought of our sin—into the void of the mind of Jesus? Could it be that in the rending of Jesus’ thoughts our sins—all of our sins, past, present and future—were placed forever beyond even the reach of God in that sea of nothing? (This idea was birthed in me from Robert Capon in his book Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace. He articulates it much better than I ever could.)
My sin, however, is not just a part of me. You can’t just lop off sin like scraping off a wart. My sin goes all the way to the very core of my being. If, then, my sin is cast away from God into this sea of nothingness, that means all of me is cast there as well. I and my sin cannot be separated, at least not in this life. It is the wheat and the tares. Rip up one and the other comes up as well. So in choosing not to call to mind our sins any longer, is God saying he is choosing not to hold us? Is he casting us away from his presence forever?
God casts our sins away from his thoughts, yet God holds everything. There is nothing beyond his grip, not even nothingness. Nothing is not beyond him. Thus for all eternity God must hold our sins in the dead mind of Jesus. For ever God will hold me as a sinner, as dead as Jesus on the Cross. God is reconciling all sin in nothingness, nothingness that could only be reached through the everythingness of the Cross. Thus I become nothing, as from before creation. In order to live I must be born again. And this is only accomplished in the resurrection. But for all eternity there is the death of sin in the mind of Christ. And for all eternity there is newness of life. There cannot be one without the other.
And so why did God do this? If he knew we would all sin and fall short of his glory, then it seems the Cross and the resurrection was just a charade for our entertainment. Something to make us feel better about ourselves, to lift our self-esteem out of the dirt. Really? Is that really why Jesus suffered and died? Was the Passion simply God playing a mulligan with us, his creation?
Or was there a deeper reconciliation going on? Is all of creation, every star, every galaxy, every black hole somehow pointing to something we cannot yet see? Is all of human history—every war, every civilization, every kingdom—somehow a part of a symphony only God can hear?
So let’s get this clear: it’s for My own sake that I save you.
Does God owe us, his creation, an explanation? He says he did this for his own sake. I don’t believe I will ever know why. If I can ever get my arms around God’s why, then I can be sure it’s not God.
Sunday will be here soon with candy and dyed eggs and spiral-sliced ham. But let us not rush past Friday with bitter wine and darkness and death. We do not see clearly now what God is reconciling through the Cross, be we can see God in the Cross. He is there. And he has rescued us from nothingness for his sake.
Happy Good Friday.