March 25th, 2016
Hebrews 10: 16-25
“You would have no power over me unless you had been granted it from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” This is a fascinating thing Jesus says. I’ve never really known what he means by it. Clearly he means that God has granted that Pilate have power to kill Jesus. Clearly he means that whoever handed Jesus over to Pilate has a greater stain on his conscience, is more guilty than the pawn Pilate. But I’ve never quite decided if the one who granted Pilate power to kill and the one who handed Jesus over to be killed are the same person. I’ve never decided if Jesus is calling God guilty.
Isn’t God in charge? Christians say that he is. And so, many people say, then this is God’s fault. This death, this world of death. This way of scrapping a life together, this way of watching life fall apart. The brutal murders of travelers at airports, the ridiculous wife-bashing of the politicians, the machinations of the powerful. The continued exploitation of the environment of unfeeling corporations and people, and the denial of the danger to all of humanity that exploitation poses. The continued existence, even after centuries of combatting it, of slavery. Is God in charge?
At the foot of the cross, it’s hard to say. There is the one you thought was the King of Kings. There is the one you thought would rescue your people. There is the one you thought God would raise up and prosper: and look, as Isaiah said, he is raised up, but is he prospering? He is nailed to a cross, not raised on a throne. Did God do that? Are you deceived to place your hope in Jesus? And why would God let you be deceived?
The hardest thing about the cross is to see that this cross shows us that God is, indeed, in control. Indeed, some say there is no greater sign of God’s omnipotence than the cross: “As God, who is immortal and in himself incapable of suffering, he voluntarily surrendered himself to suffering and death. Precisely in this way he could vanquish death in death, because he stronger than death. ‘By dying he has destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life.’” That is Cardinal Kasper, elegantly distilling 2000 years of Christian theology—the cross is the sign of God’s care. God emptied himself, taking the form of a lowly slave, offering everything. He took our sins on himself, not because God is vengeful or angry, but because God loves us and has decided to rescue us.
It can be hard to see how this cross is a sign of victory. What is there besides death and the defeat of dreams? Well, like most of God, there’s a great mystery, unfolding. It is God giving life, and making room for death, so that death itself will die. It is God’s willing and free desire to make the story of this world holy, to recreate us new in Jesus Christ. And it is God showing that even death has no power over those that God loves. And God loves you.
The Reverend John Flack