Judy and I spent the past two weeks visiting friends in South Carolina and Alabama. We flew into and out of Atlanta on this adventure. Of course I thought of the very unfortunate incidents on United Airlines and then on Delta where passengers were forcibly removed. Our flights on Southwest were without problems and issues as I expected it would be. The man flying to Louisville and the family returning from Hawaii were subjected to very harsh and unnecessary treatment. Perhaps facts will come out later mitigating the behavior of airline personnel but for now, this was shocking treatment inflicted on customers. This was something horrible that happened to them. They did not ask for this nor did they likely deserve such treatment. Although some good may come out of these unfortunate incidents it does not change the fact that these people did not ask for this treatment.
The current sermon series covers Jesus’ final statements before dying on the cross. This past weekend’s sermon reflects on Jesus’ words “why have you forsaken me.” These pained words contribute to a notion many hold that the “cross” was done to Jesus. Through misunderstanding, mistreatment, mistake, malice and self-serving politics, and injustice, Jesus was tortured then crucified by a set of circumstances orchestrated by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Even though He came on a mission of peace and reconciliation, horrors of horrors, He was wrongly jailed then killed. This is somewhat similar to Dr. Dao or the Schear family at the hands of the airlines in that it was done to them. Contrary to this, as Pastor Ed so ably pointed out, the crucifixion was victory and not defeat. This truth is of epic theological and relational consequence.
We cannot conceive of going through what Jesus went through and if we can, we certainly would not choose it. This level of pain, torture, humiliation and death would have to be done to us. Maybe we would willingly take the place of a loved one so he or she would be spared suffering but again, it is a situation being done to us. In stark contrast, death on the cross was not something that just happened to Jesus, it was why He came. Philippians 2:6-8 states, “who although He existed as God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” God as Jesus the Son was obedient to the mission, to God the Father – to be the instrument that bridged the separation between God and humankind. Without the cross, there is no connecting in intimate relationship with God. Without the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood, there is no remission of sin that separates us from God the Father. Jesus came for the cross. The cross did not just happen to Him. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And because of the cross, we have relationship with God. God’s desire for relationship with us is so great that He gave His only begotten Son. Our salvation is free (and easy) because it cost Jesus everything.