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Friday, April 18, 2014

So many sinners, so "few sins', so much mercy

The Fourth Gospel says that it provides an eye witness account of the crucifixion of Jesus, however, this is more than an historical narrative. The Gospel of John, was written, “so that we might come to belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Theology enlightens history; the story demands a faith response! Most notably, the story begins and ends in a Garden, a reminder of Adam and Eve and their sin.
Why did Jesus die? Well, for a number of reasons.

1.    He died because He was truly human, and humans die.
2.   He died because Roman Powers crucified Him, a form of death used to instill terror and obedience in its subjected Empire.
3.   He died because some of the Jewish leaders thought Him a blasphemer and a threat to the Temple.
4.   Jesus died because that was God’s plan. He died for us and for our salvation…
It is at the fourth point that is beyond the grasp of history. God’s plan is not an observable datum of social science. God’s plan is only known through revelation.
The word “plan” however, needs to be interpreted. Does it mean every detail was predetermined and happens at the end of His puppet strings? Or does it allude to an ultimate goal which He pursues in anticipation of and response to freely made human choices? I think the latter, but God's eternity is ineffable. I also believe that the Incarnation was always in God’s plan. I think human nature is only human nature, and the Incarnation God's vehicle to meld it to divine nature. The human nature is the image of God. In incarnation theosis (divinization or sharing in God's life) is made possible; God comes to us, we cannot reach God.The Original Sin and the countless sins since then have marred the image and destroyed the likeness. The world and its inhabitants are no longer pristine, the garden of Eden job has been a failure. So a more radical element has been added to incarnation in response to sin and death: The Son emptied Himself to take the form of a slave and be born into human likeness, but now God (in Jesus) revealed the full extent of true love--even to death, death on a cross!
Our humanity is the reason HE became Man and Sin is the ultimate reason why Jesus died. Now, while we readily admit that we are not perfect, don't we also glibly add that “no one is”?  We do not see the depth of the sacrifice because, in a sense, we are blind to our role. None of us fully grasps just how deep and widespread sin is in our lives. Really, how could we? We are sinners in a sin-filled world interacting with other sinners; we have no baseline for real goodness to measure our evil against! This is why so many of our sins seem pedestrian and hardly worthy of Christ’s death.
It all seems out of proportion: 
We get mad and yell so Jesus gets whipped? 
We think something inappropriate and Jesus gets a crown of thorns jammed into His head? 
We are a bit selfish or impatient and Jesus gets nailed to a cross? 
We skip out on prayers or are not too generous and Jesus dies in agony? Really? 
In your heart are you convinced that His horrible suffering is proportionate to your crimes?
I think most of the worst things that we do are things that “everyone does.” We aren’t perfect after all! And don’t we often feel “that I may have done wrong, but there were reasons beyond my control”? Am I the only one who minimizes, blames and denies so much?

Today, on this Good Friday, the cross of Jesus unveils—apocalypse—the true nature of God’s judgment: mercy. Our failure to understand the depth of sin blinds us to how the Cross is the self-sacrificing mercy, love and forgiveness of the Triune God. The one God is present on earth, doing something we cannot understand.
Sin is wide and deep, it permeates even the best of us and perverts us from our true identity. We observe only the top layer of sin in our lives. Hidden from view is our heart, where the decay is undetected. Like Peter we deny Him again and again, oblivious to the true source of our denials: We do not believe, enough. We do not love, enough. We do believe and love, but just not enough.
Jesus did not die on the cross because we occasionally lose our temper with disobedient children or an unreasonable spouse. Jesus did not die because we sometimes think inappropriately about the person beside us. Jesus did not die on the cross because we gossip or cuss.

Well, actually He did die for those things, but the reality of sin is harsher and more malevolent than our perceived examples of “sinning.” In the theology of the Fourth Gospel sin is unbelief. Unbelief is the refusal to give ourselves to God. We are like Pilate, sitting in the judgment seat putting God on trial, oblivious to the blasphemy of the situation…

We CAN NOT feel like we are all that bad because we have no sense of who and what we really are. We are the cause of His death, His death on a cross. It is for us and because of us. Such a radical solution certainly implies a radical problem. We "know" we are sinners, but we do not understand how bad sin is. 

However, the goal is not guilt and shame; it is awareness and gratitude. If we understood more we would also see how gracious grace is, how loving love is, and how Good God is, as revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ.

That is why we do this here, today. To catch a glimpse of God-Man Jesus on the cross. Perfect Love and Mercy crucified for us. Seeing that grace and love for us, we are able to truly repent. More importantly, we are able to celebrate with limitless joy and hope the love and goodness and mercy that is in Him.
That is what the cross is, the place where sorrowful sinners and a merciful God meet.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thank you.
    It has taken me more than half a century for the words of the Prayerbook confession (now only printed in Rite I) to make sense:
    "The remembrance of [our sins] is grievous to us, the burden of them is intolerable."
    For most of my life, that was a notional assent, not a heartfelt cry.
    When it finally does become a heartfelt cry, the cross is no longer arbitrary or optional. It is the tree of life.