Today’s Bible reading

They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” – Luke 23:2

 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” – John 19:12

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. – John 10:17-18

More thoughts for meditation

We pray through a Jesus lens. We come to God via love, not appropriate religion, just like God came to us in Jesus. Many people who don’t follow Jesus appreciate their spiritual capacity — religions all over the world reflect the fruit of their exploration. The claim of Jesus is his right and capacity to unite us all in a renewed humanity in right relationship to God. Bruxy Cavey centers on the crucifixion as the event that unites us all and puts an end to our religious substitutes for living in Love.

WHY DID JESUS DIE?

As we’ve already seen, from the human perspective, Jesus died because of the perfect storm of religion and politics. Now, from the heavenly perspective, there is a fourfold answer to the question, “Why did Jesus die?”

First, Jesus died to show us God’s love. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). In fact, Jesus treated all of us like his friends, even when we were his enemies. The apostle Paul says, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NET).

Second, Jesus died to save us from sin. One of the quickest answers to the question of why Jesus died is given by the apostle Paul: for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus died because of our sins, to do something about our sins. Somehow, through his death, Jesus absorbs our sin, takes away our sin, becomes our sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we imagine the Roman soldiers driving the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, we can picture our own sin becoming embedded in Christ. Humankind, as a species, poured out our wrath, our hate, our judgment, our racism and sexism, our fear and fanaticism onto and into Jesus. And Jesus didn’t retaliate or reflect these evils back at us like some ricochet of our own judgment. He took them willingly into himself, offering only forgiveness in return, and then dragged it all into the grave.

Third, Jesus died to set up God’s kingdom. What the Roman soldiers do to Jesus in ironic mockery, Jesus uses to reveal his triumphant coronation. Before his execution, the Romans give Jesus a purple robe (the color of royalty), a mock scepter, and a crown twisted together out of a thorny vine. And, just to antagonize the Jews, Pilate has a sign nailed to the cross above Jesus’ head that reads: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews (John 19:19). Jesus has ascended to his throne, the throne of a different kind of kingdom—a kingdom where the king himself conquers hearts by loving his enemies to death.

Fourth, Jesus died to shut down religion. Through his blood, Jesus knew he was cutting a new covenant between God and humankind. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead to preserve their religion, but little did they know his death was God’s means to end it all.

Suggestions for action

Pray: We killed you, Jesus. I am sorry. Thank you for forgiving me and opening up the way to everlasting life.

In a variation on a theme, Cavey says, “”History shows that when religion and politics get in bed together, violence is their love child.” Jesus is the scapegoat who bears that reality. Maybe our recent political violence reflects the same impulse. Consider your theology of the crucifixion. Have you ever really pondered your own thoughts, ever received the love, or have you been moving with some religious herd without too much thought?

I think the Lord’s statement about laying down His life in today’s readings is one we might aspire to make ourselves. On the one hand, Jesus has given resurrection life to us, so we have no need to be afraid (even when we are!). On the other hand, we have a lot of confidence born of our freedom in the here and now, so when our lives are threatened, we don’t need to think someone else but God has power over us (even when they threaten violence!). Investigate the scared part of yourself.