Kenneth Tanner

Kenneth Tanner

Rector, Holy Redeemer Church, Rochester Hills, MI

This Friday reveals that there is no question about where Jesus stands.

Jesus stands squarely with humanity. Jesus rejects all human and demonic contempt for mankind, identifies himself with our worst crimes, surrenders his perfections that all men and women might participate in his divine goodness, and stands in humanity’s place as the representative of all that is truly human for all time and forever.

By the death of Jesus, God defeats evil in our hearts, in the hearts of our neighbors and enemies (who are not his enemies), and conquers hell and the grave.

God does not stand outside our sufferings—cancer, torture, neglect, loneliness, anxiety, depression, abuse, hunger, pains of all sorts—but agonizes alongside his holy servant Job and with all who suffer, not only by his own human trials and temptations in the flesh, but by genuinely entering our hardships with us whenever we are afflicted.

Jesus reveals God not as the origin of evil, not as one who purposes evil for some grand design that is too difficult for us to comprehend, not as one who participates in evil or sends evil or cooperates with evil, but who co-suffers with the world in the flesh in order to rout evil, to assure us that evil has no meaning and that evil has no future. And that is very good news.

The cross swallows up our self-destructive, lethal curiosity about what lies beyond the borders of Love, overcomes our tainted desire for what is not Love, but the dire consequences of our collective human pride, the world of suffering we caused and go on causing year after year, ought to overwhelm our senses and rend our hearts.

Our lack of humility has made the work of God arduous, and God in Jesus works hard to redeem us.

We can make so much of the omnipotence of God that we lose sight that in the Son’s humanity our evil was a great difficulty for God to overcome.

There was nothing easy about the cross for Jesus and there should be nothing about the cross that does not disturb us.

Mercifully, most of us have never had to page through a file of horrific crime scene photos but if we had the photos of the body of Jesus—the body of God—his bloody corpse would sicken and haunt us.

What have we done?

It ought to be hard for us to understand the cross. It ought to be difficult to contemplate the slaying of God—as terrifying as it must have been to witness it.

For the cross is *our* murder and rejection of the love that is God embodied in Jesus Christ, and the cross is *our* murder and rejection of the new humanity of which Jesus Christ is the first fruits.

Jesus did not want the cross. His Father did not want it. *We* are the ones who wanted the death of God and the death of the new humanity Jesus embodied, and so we crucified the Lord of Glory. We put God to death and we put the new humanity to death. On this the first apostolic preachers in Acts are unanimous in every recorded sermon.

And the crucifixion of Christ is what we go on doing. Over and over and over again we live by the creed that someone else must die to make the world right. This is what the terrorists believe. This is what we believe when we sentence criminals to death. This is what the father who does not want to keep his unborn child believes. Someone else must die for the world to be made well. And that is the voice of satan.

If Jesus came among us we would, I fear, crucify him again. And a large part of the church would participate because we still do not recognize the Living God when he appears, and we still shun the new humanity Jesus spoke about on the mountaintop in his great sermon, the way of being human that will get you killed in this world every time.

But the Father loves the Son so much and loves the world so much that he forgives our treason, he forgives our murder, and raises his servant Jesus from the dead, and raises all humanity with him.

All of humanity.

When Jesus prays to the Father that those who use terror against him be forgiven, he is singing the forgiving heart of his Father back to him, he is singing the loving forgiveness that they simply are together as one God with their Spirit.

And so those who crucify—those who bring terror—are as forgiven by God in Jesus Christ as those who bear the brunt of terror, as those who are crucified. And we are kidding ourselves if we think we can get our heads around that kind of charity. It just does not make sense in a world that crucifies daily, that is always looking for the next person to kill because we have not accepted that in Jesus Christ and in his death death is defeated and no one else has to die.

He is our wounded God who in a weakness unknown to this world conquers all that is not Love. And we can count on him.

Originally published at (republished with permission of the author):


For Good Friday, 2016