“…while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:45-46)
It’s over. Jesus dies. He has been whipped and beaten, hung on the cross, and has died. We are fascinated with the cross and for good reason. The struggle I have with it is that sometimes I think we think that it’s all we need. We just need to get Jesus to the cross because I need to be forgiven. While this is true to a certain extent, there’s more to all of this. I don’t just need Jesus to get to the cross. I need the whole of the life he led that led him to the cross. I need his work and teaching of bringing in those who are out that upset the religious establishment enough to put him on the cross. Jesus did not come to earth to die. He came to redeem, rebuild, and restore humanity, but not merely through a mystical moment of atonement on a cross, but through a day by day ministry of revelation in the hearts and minds of humans that go so far as to lead him to the cross.
Jesus life is what we need, and part of that life was his death. His life was one of radical love for humanity wherein he gave himself up for us day by day. Every work of his life was a work toward the restoration of humanity in an outpouring of sacrificial, fearless love for humanity. And that love was so great and so broad that he would take that love as far as to lay his life down on a cross. Not even the threat and reality of horrific and painful death would give him pause enough to slow down his love.
I would argue that the cross is not the moment when God forgives us. Forgiveness was here all along. It’s not like forgiveness never existed until Jesus died. Long before Jesus walked this earth the Psalmist said, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8). God has been reaching out to us in forgiveness through all space and time. The cross is not the moment when God forgives us. The cross is the moment when God makes it abundantly clear that we are forgiven. The cross is the expression of just how far God will go to make sure we realize God’s love for us- all of us. The cross reveals the degree to which God loves us and always has loved us.
And so Jesus dies and in so doing we wake up to the depths of God’s love. He is taken off the cross, laid in a tomb and buried into the earth, beneath the dirt. The best way for love to open our eyes to the degree to which we are loved was for love to be buried and go silent.