Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Second Sunday of Lent: God on the Cross

What did God experience on the Cross and why does it matter? This question immediately brings two texts to mind. The first words come from the mouth of the Crucified One himself.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” … And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17.1, 5, ESV)
When Jesus prays to the Father, “the hour has come,” he means that it is time for the cross. What’s more, Jesus describes his bloody, excruciating, and scandalous death as his glorification. This means that as Jesus’ body was broken, as his blood spilled onto the sandy soil outside Jerusalem, as his very life departed from him, the glory of God was being manifested. This is why Paul, quoting an early Christian hymn, proclaims to the Philippians,
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death —
even to death on a cross (Philippians 2.5-8, CSB). 
Why did Jesus empty himself? Why did Jesus assume the form of a servant? Why did Jesus, having assumed full humanity, humble himself to the point of death - even death on a cross? Paul’s answer - He existed in the form of God. In other words, to empty oneself in loving sacrifice for sinners is what it means to be in the form of God. It is not the form of God to exploit. It is the form of God to be poured out. It is not the form of God to demand service. It is the form to God to serve. While it should remain to us a mystery that the Immortal One become for us the Crucified One, it is important for us to grasp that on the cross each person of the Trinity is united in loving sacrifice for sinners.

Why does it matter? It matters because we are often tempted to sacrifice the glorious reality of a loving Triune God, on the altar of understanding “what is not meant to be understood.” In Western Culture we have a lot of sensible stories of angry kings demanding payment for crimes committed. That narrative then becomes the lens through which we understand the cross as Jesus, the faithful and loving Son, pacifying the wrath of the angry tyrannical Father. With these images in mind many of us nurture a hidden suspicion about the Father because on Good Friday he resembles Myra Gulch from the Wizard of Oz who demands Toto be destroyed, much like the Father in our minds who demands his Son be destroyed? Everyone loves Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, but we feel nothing but disdain for Myra Gulch because she’s angry, spiteful, and uses the law to get her way. Are these images true? Is God like Myra Gulch? Brothers and sisters, the Bible explicitly teaches that the already established love of God is what motivated the cross and is what is on display at the cross. The cross is not what made it possible for God to love us. The cross happened because God already loved us. Does the Bible teach that on the cross the Father turned his face away? No. Do the Scriptures teach that the Trinity was broken on the cross? Absolutely not! The cross is the place where God himself in love and sacrifice forgives sin. Thanks be to God.

Click here to stream Sunday’s sermon, Forsaken.

At the beginning of Sunday’s message, I referenced a line from a new song by Andrew Peterson. The line is: “As we try to believe what is not meant to be understood.” In fact, that song, Always Good, and another, Well Done, Good and Faithful, fed my soul full while I was writing the sermon. Both songs can be listened to below.            

Always Good

Well Done, Good and Faithful

Several of you also asked for the Brennan Manning quote that I shared as we explored Psalm 22.8.
If you could honestly say that God likes you, not only loves you, if you could say, “The Father is very fond of me,” there would come a relaxedness, a serenity, and a compassionate attitude toward yourself that is a reflection of God’s own tenderness (Brennan Manning).
Thanks be to God!


  1. "The cross is not what made it possible for God to love us. The cross happened because God already loved us." That expresses an important paradigm shift.

  2. Yes! A shift away from a Monster God to to the God whose glory is revealed in the face of Jesus. 😅