Saturday, November 12, 2005

A thought about the Lord's Passion

Note: This builds, interestingly enough (or perhaps according to some "scandalously enough") upon certain ideas I've read in the writings of the late Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde.

I guess you could say Friday morning/early afternoon are, for me, what Friday evening is for most others - it is the end of the work week, and the beginning of my weekend. As I relaxed, I decided to pop in my copy of Mel Gibson's fantastic The Passion of the Christ (my appreciation has grown for this film with time), and do some thoughtful/meditative film viewing.

While watching, a sentiment reoccurred to me which I had seen highlighted in an essay I had read some time back on just why it is Christ suffered as He did. Viewing the film intensified this realization - that the way Christ was made to suffer at the hands of men, was the only way a sinful world such as ours could or would receive the likes of Him.

What a contrast the Man riding on the back of a donkey (surrounded only by a rag tag group of society's nobodies) was from the luminous "Ancient of Days" beheld by a relatively priveleged few in ancient times; theophanies of blinding Light, covered in fiery smoke, announced by bone grinding thunder and world ripping peals of lightning. That was the Lord the Israelites had encountered at Mt.Sinai - a God Whose holiness and purity (so alien to the filthiness and compromise of this present world) was "defended" by the most extreme measures of celestial force.

This was also, unsurprisingly, what characterized the Mosaic cult from Sinai onward. For example, the terrestrial space set aside for the adoration of God looked like a sacred fortress, with fences and partitions. The Temple had an armed guard, and anyone who ventured where they did not belong would be swiftly put to death. And if someone did get past the guards, we are told that had they made it into the sanctuary, something supernatural would have done the deed and struck such a violater dead.

Thinking about this, I concluded that the reason why God so often "came in a tank" (so to speak) with guns blaring, is precisely because if we were ever given a chance to deal with God "as He is" without such displays of power, we would kill Him. And we did not prove His foresight incorrect, for that is precisely what we did just shy of two thousand years ago. God approached us at our level, as vulnerable as you or I - and when we got a good look at Him, and once again decided we really didn't care for what He was saying (which was nothing new), we took our chance and tortured and murdered Him. This is how fallen men deal with "unprotected" purity - indeed, it would seem all they understand is force; a good part of the Old Covenant being a series of threats of temporal woe should the Israelites violate it's terms.

But there was no redemption in keeping things on that level - this was no return to Paradise, and even less so, growth into what Adam and Eve had been intended for (which was something beyond what they briefly experienced in Eden). Thus when the "time was right" (when, providentially, it would have it's greatest effect), God showed His mercy to the world and appeared without regal pretense. While it is true that there was a great condescension involved in God becoming a Man (since the difference between the Creator and the created is unfathomable), in terms of His posture and gentleness, it was in fact the most direct and unvarnished manifestation of just Who God is, what He is really like, etc. that had been ever given to man - a revelation written not in letters or mere words, but in flesh, blood and the life of a poor carpenter from the troubled backwater of the Roman Empire.

And we being bullies at heart, could only "respect" an even bigger bully; being violent, we would only follow one who matched and exceeded our violence. This was the whole Jewish pretension about the Messiah when our Lord appeared; that he would be an oppulent king, a man of war, who would put his boot to the neck of all of Israel's enemies and repay their offences against God's Chosen tenfold and establish a "New World Order" with the magnificent Temple of Jerusalem as it's centre. Suffice it to say, "love thy enemies" (just as God in truth loves us; for without grace this is all we show ourselves to be - the enemies of God) was not a part of that vision, and the Rabbi Who showed mercy even to a pagan Roman centurian just had to go!

Fortunately, there was enduring mercy in God's death, even when it was at our hands. God did not become merciful when Christ died for sinners; it was because He was already merciful and wanting us to be reconciled to Him, that He died as He did. The Cross is filled with mercy, it is the sign of Divine Grace - and this is precisely what St.Paul teaches...

For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:22b-26)

In other words, God had already resolved to redeem the world - He was merciful. The shedding of Christ's Precious Blood, was the demonstration and effecting of this plan, which we are also told by the Scriptures had existed from the foundation of the world (Apocalypse 13:8).

There are of course other dimensions to the feat of Christ for our salvation; in particular that it was a restoration of justice to what God had created (understood not as placating vengence, but in the authentic and classical sense of restoring wholeness) and that by enduring death and rising again, Christ was a man Who was stronger than the hold of both death and satan (and thus He constitutes an entrance/means for you and I into a type of humanity which is unperishable and victorious). I do not mean to discount these, or put them aside as unimportant - hardly! I guess what I'm speaking of has more to do with the "motives" of God as revealed in His revelation to mankind, and our own (and unfortunate) motives when we are not assisted by grace.


Blogger 尼古拉 said...

Христос рождается, славите!

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!

3:23 a.m.  

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