Why The Cross?
The death of Jesus has been, for me, a difficult hurdle to get over in terms of understanding the nature of God. It wasn’t an issue for me as a child, but as I grew older and began to tear down and then reconstruct my faith it began to loom over me more and more.
My biggest question has always been, “why would such a good and loving, not to mention all knowing and omnipotent, God have to use such terrible and violent means to accomplish what he wanted?”
In other words, was Jesus’ death really necessary??
The theology I grew up with would say…
“Yes, of course it was (and what a dumb question). Jesus had to die to appease God’s wrath which was meant for you because of your sin!”
Now I’m not arguing that that’s entirely untrue, and it makes a little bit of sense when looking at the Old Testament, but when compared to who Jesus seems to be it really has me scratching my head…because Jesus never seems wrathful or enraged by people’s sin (for the most part, but there are exceptions). Jesus spent his entire ministry with sinners! Not condemning them, but trying to teach them the truth.
And one fundamental truth we know about God is that his character never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and no matter how different Jesus and God in the OT seem, I have to believe that they are one, and that Jesus was the perfect representation of God.
So WAS Jesus’ death really necessary??
The answer I’ve come to is, yes. Absolutely.
But my perspective had to change a little to get there…
Because if we look at the horrible death of Jesus as an intervention, a “plan B”, that God had to enact just so that he could love us again we’re missing EVERYTHING.Because there is no plan B.
Only plan A.
And I believe plan A is to make disciples of all the nations, expanding the kingdom of God by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
God has never stopped loving us or desiring us, even though we have continually stopped loving and desiring him. And Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were not a scramble to fix an unforeseen problem, but instead the centerpiece and crux of love in God’s plan A.
To quote Richard Rohr, “Jesus was not changing God’s mind about us; he was changing our minds about God…Jesus was pure gift.” A gift showing us who God really is, and what it truly means to follow him.
Our God is not a violent or punitive God, nor does he ever want or demand these things of us…that, to me, is why the cross is necessary.
So today I look to the cross and Jesus’ death and see the purest form of love and self sacrifice, and I hope that on this dark day you will be able to do the same.