The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
+We adore you O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, ‘This man was innocent beyond doubt.’ When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.” Luke 23:44-49
So, we come to the point of Jesus’ death. Seeing Him nailed to the cross, Creation itself seems to mourn and cover it’s light. How can there be light when the Creator of light suffers so? Has darkness overcome the light? It would seem so. But, appearances do not always reveal the whole truth, the underlying truth of what is happening, of what is being accomplished. We will see the fullness of truth in the days ahead.
For now, however, Jesus remains nailed to His cross, living His final moments. And, while there is a crowd gathered at the foot of the cross, He is alone. He is alone like no other man has ever been alone. He Who is without sin is made sin for the sake of our salvation. God is everywhere, except where there is sin. Jesus has become sin. God is not there. Jesus is alone.
The veil in the temple is rent in two. The veil that guarded the Holy of Holies, the place where God dwelt among His people, is torn apart because God is no longer among His people. Where is God? There He is! There, nailed to the wood of a cross. God is dying for the sins of the people Who nailed Him to that cross. Who nailed Him to that cross? The Jews? The Romans? Yes, but not only them. They are merely the practical instruments carrying out the destiny of humankind determined in the Garden, when man first turned from God, looking to himself for the answers to life’s meaning, looking to himself as the object of his worship. Thinking we might find ourselves within ourselves, we lost our way; we lost ourselves. “The glory of God is man, fully human, fully alive!” said St. Irenaeus of Lyons. In that Garden, in that first sin, we lost our humanity. We lost who we are. Jesus came to restore our humanity. Jesus came to find us and rescue us from ourselves, for our own sake.
How did He save us? He became one of us; God with us. He took on our nature and preserved it from sin so that He could take onto Himself the sins of the world. Then He took those sins of the world and nailed them to the cross, where they died when He died.
He died. God died. Wrap your brain around that one! We did not recognize Him for Who He was. We thought Him one like us in all things, including sin. So, when He taught us a new way, a way of reconciliation to a loving Father, we rejected His message. Who is He that we should listen to Him? When He showed us a new way of living, we rejected His mission. Love your enemies? Walk two miles when one is demanded of you? Turn the other cheek? Forgive seventy times seven times? Eat my body; drink my blood? What craziness is this? How could we take Him seriously when the expectations of holiness were so unreasonable, and when He taught us that God is so close?
So, we killed Him. Not because He wanted to be king. That was an orchestrated ruse, a red herring meant to get the authorities concerned enough to force their hand and take action against Him. No, we killed Him because He demanded of us something we just couldn’t give: a life lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. His teaching struck us as a contradiction: God is close and loves all, yet to be faithful to Him we must be willing to give Him everything and follow Jesus. Why should God be so demanding? I can be close to God without having to give up much at all, let alone everything! His miracles scared us. They suggested that maybe He was Who He said He was, and so maybe His new way was God’s way. No! I will not have anyone insist that God makes such demands of me. God loves me. I like that part. God wants all of me? Not so much!
Jesus gave all. He wants us to give all. Does He ask too much?
Father, You sent Your Son to be Your Lamb, Your sacrifice for the sins of humanity. You ask so much, but never do You ask that we give to You as much as You have given to us, or sacrificed for us. Jesus is our model of perfect obedience to Your will. As He lived a life of perfect obedience, so He calls us to a life of perfect obedience. Give us Your grace to live such a life, even unto death. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.