Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
                  —Isaiah 53.8

Some New Testament writers say Jesus was crucified “according to scripture,”  as “atonement for our sin.” This does not mean God intended the cross, that God demands a sacrifice, that God “sent Jesus to die.” No, God sent Jesus to live. God sent Jesus to love, and to forgive, and to show us how, knowing that love is willing to suffer.

God is not the one who demands sacrifice; we are. God said, “I demand mercy, not sacrifice” (Psalm 40, Ps. 51, Hosea 6.6, Mt. 9.13). Jesus was not crucified because God needed for that to happen. He was crucified because people wanted it to happen. He was crucified by the power of human evil and injustice. Scripture simply predicts that this is what happens when God comes into the world, when we love in humble vulnerability.

The story of Holy week that we are about to witness is not some complex procedure God cooked up to get us saved, not some weird hostage exchange, not some preordained divine “deal” to secure our forgiveness, but the plain story of God’s presence in an innocent person suffering at the hands of human fear and power—and the story of God’s forgiveness overpowering our evil.

What makes it a holy story is not that Jesus suffered—people suffer a lot more than that—but that he forgave. What makes it holy is that we see God’s grace toward us in Jesus’ nonviolent love and forgiveness in the face of evil. As Jesus had said, what we do to the “least,” we do to God. Jesus said, “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12.17).  There is no valid condemnation. But we do condemn.  Yet the good news is, God forgives us.  Nothing, neither our suffering nor the suffering we cause, can separate us from God’s love. 

As you witness the events of Holy Week, resist the temptation to make it all seem long ago and far away. It’s about us. It’s about God’s condemnation of our violence, discrimination, judgment and oppression. It’s the story of Gandhi and King, the story of the Nazi Holocaust and the lynchings of blacks and the genocide of Native peoples. It’s the story of Palestine and Afghanistan and Columbia, the story of undocumented immigrants and torture victims, abused children and Trayvon Martin.

And it’s about how even amidst violence God’s love transforms people, and transforms life; God’s forgiveness changes us. It’s about how love is stronger than evil and life is stronger than death. It’s a love story, about us. It won’t be easy. But it is, as we say, “according to scripture,”—that is, it’s the truth.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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