Death and Dishonor

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Devotional for Tuesday of Holy Week (April 7)

Note: An online prayer room will be available this evening at 6 p.m. Go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/244571373 to join, or dial in at (301) 715-8592, and then use this meeting i.d. number: 244 571 373.

John 12:34-36 (NLT)

The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.


After watching Jesus ride into Jerusalem, hailed as a king, people in the crowd had questions. They had heard Jesus repeatedly call himself “Son of Man,” and they understood he somehow was staking claim to the role of Messiah, the one to fulfill the greatest promises in their Jewish Bible. But they also had heard Jesus indicate how he would die.

How can one anointed and glorified by God, the one we now understand to be God in flesh, die such a horrible, humiliating death? Over time, Christians have gotten used to the idea of the bloodied Jesus hanging on a cross, but we simultaneously have to admit the image is strange, particularly to people not raised in the faith.

Probably the most dramatic Old Testament reference to the “Son of Man” comes in Daniel 7:13-14: “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”

Any orthodox-minded Christian reading that passage is going to think, “This is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ.” We believe Jesus has authority, honor and sovereignty over all the nations, something all people will one day recognize. The vision does make him appear invincible, however.

To answer the crowd’s question, we have to explore the underlying design of salvation, and that means we must delve into a mystery too complex for us to understand in full. Jesus’ answer gives us deep insight, however.

For all practical purposes, the Son of Man mounted a rescue mission. Because of our sins, we were trapped in darkness—a place that the Holy God, who is light, has every right to disregard.

Out of love, however, God chose not to forget us or destroy us. Instead, the light entered the darkness to find us, taking on flesh to be among us. The title “Son of God” reminds us of Christ’s divinity; the title “Son of Man” reminds us of his blessed humanity. (Now we’re back to the Christmas story, the incarnation.)

To break the grip sin and death had on us, Jesus bore our punishment for sin. Or we might say he ransomed us from sin. Or we might say he carried our shame. Or we might say he became the one perfect sacrifice for sin, simultaneously priest and slain lamb. These and other descriptions of how atonement works mark the point where the mystery becomes almost unfathomable. We use metaphors to grasp what only God fully understands.

What’s important is that we believe Christ’s death on the cross is effective, that the divine machinery works even if we cannot comprehend all its cogs and pulleys. We have to have faith.

We also have an advantage the Passover crowd did not have. We know that ultimately, the Son of Man is invincible. Death could not bind him, and death will be destroyed by him. The proof lies in an event following the crucifixion.

That’s a story for Easter Sunday, though.

Lord, today we reaffirm our belief that the Son of Man died on the cross, knowing our belief is enough to pull us from darkness into light.

 

One thought on “Death and Dishonor

  1. I greatly appreciated your effort to explain the rational for Jesus dying on the cross in multiple ways admitting that it is a hard to understand mystery, and for reminding us that the “why” really doesn’t matter as long as we believe that Jesus death on the cross was effective.

    Like

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