Enemies Meet at the Cross

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man – though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.  But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we are now justified by His Blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received our reconciliation.                      Romans 5: 6-11

When The Passion of the Christ was first shown, Steve Bateman in his column in the Lethbridge Herald’s Faith page (Saturday, March 20, 2004) emphasized how it was incomplete.  As he put it:

The current debate over who crucified Christ illustrates the point perfectly.  Finally, the Jews did not crucify Christ; neither did the Romans, neither did all of us….Gibson didn’t crucify Jesus either.  So who did?
John Piper has it right when reminds us that God the Father did.  We know this because the Christian Scriptures tell us in Romans 8:32: “..(God) did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.”  And really that IS the whole point.

It is very true that the central character in the crucifixion of Jesus is God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah was one who really put his finger on it when he prophesied in Chapter 53:

4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted
6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief;…

However it may be a bit difficult to convince anyone that this was an event untouched by human hands.  It is quite obvious that human hands were all over the event, and played very significant roles in what was happening.

To really understand what place humans had, we have to understand what need the crucifixion addresses.  The whole reason for Jesus’ death was because of sin.  But what is sin?  And why does St Paul in Romans 5 claim that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (v10)?  Enemies sounds strange in our ears, because most of us don’t think of ourselves as being all that antagonistic toward God.  Apathetic, perhaps, but certainly not enemies!

Well, first of all, just what is sin?  John, in his first letter (1, 3:4) defines sin, not as some mistake, but as anti-law, lawlessness, rebellion.  This is reflected when Adam and Eve sinned, obviously fully knowing what was right and wrong, but defiantly going ahead with what they determined was a better idea.

This is reflected in our own experience: if you pay attention to just prior when we do something wrong, often the thought comes to mind that “this is wrong, I shouldn’t do it,” but we are determined to go ahead anyway.  Sometimes our disobedience is low key, where we simply make up our minds to do it our own way.  Sometimes our rebellion takes a nasty turn and we challenge God’s right to tell us what to do.

Listen to ourselves: “Oh, I know I shouldn’t do this, but…..”  “I know I’m supposed to, but…..,” and we will not be dissuaded from our intention.  Often like an addict, we convince ourselves how we have to go ahead – in order to be happy, in order to survive, in order to cope with life, in order to mange stress, or any other “good” excuse – yet all the while knowing that if it is not God’s way, then there will be no satisfaction, no lasting peace, no end to the inner struggle in our minds.  In reality, we toy with anarchy – we are resistant, even openly defiant, against anything where God should have the last say in certain areas of our lives.

Look at what is happening in the world in general – in the political arena and the so-called politically correct language.  God’s Word has definite things to say in regard to morality, but there is such a defiance, almost glee, at making the Biblical viewpoint be ground into the dust.  If fact, when, singled out from all other religions, God’s Word is regarded as a hate-crime when it refers to such issues as homosexuality, marriage, or its own uniqueness beyond every other religion.  God’s Word becomes now a symbol of evil, rather than a symbol of His power and life, of His mercy and His rescue of us who stand condemned, and especially of His steadfast Love and faithfulness.

Look at the way the entertainment industry regards any who speak out in regard to morality, often referring to them in such condescending and disdainful ways.  How dare one regard himself as being responsible toward God!!   God simply gets in the way when it comes to money, sex, and power.  How good it would be if we could just silence Him.

We can really get angry at God, especially if we are very disturbed about some sort of injustice, particularly if it is toward ourselves.  We are quick to challenge His intelligence, wisdom or Love; “if God is so good…” and “If God is so loving…” and “if God really cares…” – about me, about the starving, about those who never heard the Gospel, about – well, whatever the challenge of the day is.  If only we could have God under our thumb, just for once, then we would make Him understand, we would make Him know how it feels, we would make Him pay….  This is rebellion, a rebellion which refuses to acknowledge how much guilt stains our own hands in regard to these very injustices.

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Here now we can take out on God all the grievances and felt injustices accumulated over the years, and mankind-wide over the centuries.  Here is the chance to make Him suffer as we have from those who have misused their power and authority!  Here’s our chance to make Him feel pain, hunger, thirst.

How does it feel, God, to have hatred, abuse and persecution tear into Your flesh, Your humanity?  How does it feel to be thrown around at the whim of those who control You, betrayed by those whom You counted as close to You, belittled by the scorn from every direction around You?  How does it feel to be innocent and yet reviled as a terrible monster who deserves the worst treatment?  How does it feel, God, when Your Love is used to hurt You, when the cry of Your heart is answered by sarcasm and contempt, when the yearning of Your soul is twisted by others’ depravity and corruption?

True, not everybody is so directly involved in actually nailing the hands to the cross or in creating as much misery as possible for God.  There is the apathy of Pilate like the listlessness of those who won’t speak out to defend God’s way and Word, those who succumb to popular demand rather than demonstrate the truth.  They surrender to being de-sensitized rather than be offended by such abuse.  Their rebellion is just as keen, because they are saying that God doesn’t have a voice compared to what humanity around them thinks.  They too want God out of the way, it’s just that they aren’t as vocal about it.

Those kinds of attitudes are all around us – and even in us.  Yes, it was your sin and my sin which nailed Him to the cross, it was indeed human hands which lifted the Cross.  The nature of mankind’s rebellion stands fully revealed.

Yet it was God Himself Who was responsible for Jesus’ death – Jesus’ Blood was on the Father’s hands.  That may sound strange at first, however, the Cross would never have happened, humanity would not have vented its anger and hatred, Jesus would not have carried all that venom, hostility and rebellion of mankind in His flesh, had not God loved us enough to make Good Friday happen.  God was gathering up every bit of the human rebellion throughout all ages, so that not only would it now be in the open, but also so that all of it could be paid for, forgiven and removed.

That’s what turns this event from the explosive viciousness of human rebellion into the wonder-filled drama of God’s gracious salvation.  In fact, it is that very contrast that makes the event so amazing and St Paul’s words so profound: “While we were yet enemies” – in the midst of our intense rebellion against God, “Christ died for us.”  Mankind was murdering God, and God used this very event to save His own murderers.

The movie The Passion of the Christ did a very good job at demonstrating the stark contrast of these two facts. When the sin of mankind was laid bare, God did not reject His enemies.  Despite how mankind struggled to make God truly be the Enemy that they could fight, God’s plain yet compelling message comes back, “you are this precious to me.”  The Father willingly gave up His own, only Son so that His murderers could stand free and clear, penalty paid, judgment satisfied.  After getting rid of the full poison of the thousands-of-years-old venom of rebellion, the message was still, “But I have loved you even unto death.”

So yes, God was pounding the nails into Jesus’ hands, yet with every pound of the hammer, the message to every one of us was “I love you, I have loved you, I love you this much” – this is what both the Father and the Son have gone through to firmly back up their heartfelt desire that, in answer to our repentance, we therefore would have freedom from sin, guilt, and their devastating effects in our lives.

However, the Cross is not something which merely marks the end of a human’s conflict with God, it also marks the beginning of an incredible relationship: the Blood of the New Covenant indicates a profound and intimate connection to the core of God’s being – “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” is how Peter described it [II Peter 1:4].  For our daily life, we now tap into an extreme involvement by God to be there in every step of our lives as He shares the depths of His heart with us.

In this way, at the foot of the Cross we discover how humans had their part in the crucifixion of Jesus, but because God also had His part, we are not left with a tragedy, but rather an extraordinary confirmation of hope and joy.


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