Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why the Cross? (Part 2)

Since we are in Holy Week for Christians, we hear about Jesus’ Last Supper, his arrest, and his execution as a criminal on a Roman cross. Since Jesus’ death on the cross is central to Christianity, we should understand why such a thing happened. I’ll try to explain this in a series of posts.

II. God’s Plan

When we look at Isaiah chapter 53, it points to Jesus as God’s suffering servant. But why did Jesus have to suffer? Was his sacrificial death required to satisfy an angry and vengeful God, as some think? Some people may ask, What kind of cruel God would send his Son to such a fate? Others say all this was made up by the disciples to explain why their charismatic leader was put to death.

These are issues that have been debated throughout the ages because the reasons for Jesus’ death have not always been well understood. Here’s what we understand from the Bible, which will hopefully illuminate those key verses in Isaiah 53 when we get to them:

1. We Are Separated from God

First of all, the problem is that all of humanity is separated from a relationship with God because we do bad things (called “sin”), as Ephesians 2:1-2 tell us:

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. NRSV

“Dead” in this verse mans spiritually dead, and we read something similar in Isaiah 59:2:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. NIV

Along those same lines, we read in Romans 3:22b-23a that we all sin and fall short of God’s standard:

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. NRSV

2. God Loves Us and Wants Us

Because we are all tainted by sin and God can’t have anything to do with sin or evil, God can’t accept us into his family as his children. Yet God loves us as the pinnacle of his creation and wants us to have a relationship with him, which was the reason for which we were created. A dog might have made a nice companion, but God wanted a creature with free will and intelligence to voluntarily and freely love him back. So God created humans, knowing we would mess up, many would reject him, and everybody would abuse their free will in one way or another. So here was the dilemma: God loves us and created us to be in relationship with him. However, that couldn’t happen because we are unrighteous and God’s justice hadn’t been served.

3. God’s Justice and Mercy

What do I mean by “God’s justice hadn’t been served?” We should understand two attributes of God at work here: his justice and his mercy. God has a strong sense of justice, as we do. We want people justly punished and a price paid for any wrongdoing. When we see someone victimized, we cry out, “Somebody has to pay!” God also has a strong sense of mercy and compassion – and of course love.

More on this subject in a future post.

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