I have come to believe that the crucifixion did not kill Jesus. Crucifixion is merely the external force and circumstance of his death. At a deeper level the cross points to the intense relationship between love and death. Love is the ultimate cause of Jesus’ death.
True love always involves some degree of dying: dying to one’s ego, one’s own desires and selfishness, one’s own preferences, one’s fears, one’s own safety and security. It is not the annihilation of one’s self but the giving of one’s self to another.
You who are married know the call to surrender your defenses, your fears, and your own agenda for the life and love of your spouse. You who are parents know the parts of your life you have given up or lost in loving your child. You who have ever reconciled with another, overcoming the barriers of bitterness and resentment, have allowed self-righteousness, the pride of being right, and the fear of being hurt again to die. You who have cared for another through a long illness, dementia, or addiction can name the many costs and deaths. You who have died in these and so many other ways also know that you have received back more life than you ever lost.
To love is to risk death and to refuse death is to deny love. The great love stories always end in death, not only in literature but also in life. The greatest and most profound story of love is Jesus’ death on the cross. That love is why we call this day good, Good Friday.
We, too often, misunderstand the cross in terms of extreme sacrifice rather than in terms of ultimate love, as the taking of life rather than the giving of life, as a tragedy rather than a triumph. Jesus does not hang on the cross as some bridge between us and God. Jesus is God on the cross choosing to love; choosing to love you, me, and all of humanity.
Despite what we know or believe about ourselves, despite what we see happening around us, despite our sins and the brokenness of our world, the cross is the ever-present arc of God’s love stretching out to reach us. Wherever we are, no matter how far from God we may have wandered, or the path we have travelled, we are never too far away and we are never abandoned. The arc of God’s love is long, never ending, and knows no boundaries.
Christ died for us, not because we are bad people, worthless sinners, but because we are loved, because we are chosen, because we are his brothers and sisters, children of his Father.
The tree by which Adam and Eve fell is today the cross by which Christ is lifted up and draws all people to himself. Their falling down has become their lifting up. Through the cross, our falling down has become our lifting up. It is all and only for love’s sake. Love on the cross always has the final word and so Jesus can say, “It is finished.”
“It is finished.” There is nothing but love. There is only love.
by Michael Marsh