“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God,”
The great offense of the Christian faith is this: there is no other God than the crucified man Jesus. The meaning of the word God for the Christian faith means one thing and one thing only, the person of Jesus. For human beings Jesus is the final word of self-revelation, self-definition and self-affirmation of God. If God is the subject, the Crucified Jesus is the lone predicate.
The current wild objections to this run all the way back to the jeering bystanders who stood and watched Him die. “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” He didn’t, of course, and this was proof enough for them that all God talk where Jesus was concerned was bunk. It never occurred to them that the deepest, clearest revelation of God for humans was right there in the ripped flesh, blood and death. It also hasn’t occurred to many in the churches.
Much of the onward and upward religion of today has ruled out this stark definition in favor of what people have always clamored for: an onward and upward, positive, uplifting, fulfilling and glory-filled God. Churches everywhere are throwing ladders against the walls of heaven, scrambling to free themselves from the bondage, suffering and confusion of the world, storm the halls of glory and grab a piece of divinity. But all this does is diminish God’s very self-revelation, the place where He wants to be known, and render the cross of Jesus useless.
The proclamation of the Crucified Jesus for us in Word and sacrament must be the singular point of contact for us. This because there is no pre-existing point of contact in us, no spark of divinity which God fans like a sad ember into a roaring flame of faith. We must be met where we actually are, in the utter deadness of sin with no possibility in ourselves, I repeat, no possibility in ourselves at all to regain life and freedom from the powers of sin and death. God must become sin and death for us in order that He may be life for us.
This means that the Christian life has nothing whatsoever to do with the glory and praise religion of God seeking. In this life there will be no heaven ahead of time. Jesus did not die between two gilded candles on an altar, or in the midst of a hyper-ventilating praise band. He died between two criminals like you and me. That is still where he wants to be found, in the company of real sinners distinguished only by the knowledge of their great need.
For the Gospel of the crucified God grounds the Christian in the real world of hurts and hopes with our eyes wide open to things as they are. The Gospel of the Crucified God releases us from delusional spiritual pursuits that we may be what we were intended to be; creatures who are content to be engaged in the practical affairs of daily living in that radical cross-carrying faith that is content to entrust the things of God, to God, expecting nothing, as we await with Advent longing the future that God has promised.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”