Sunday, May 19, 2019
That is ugly. . .
We need to see the ugliness of the crucifix, the brutality of the scars, and the pain which our Savior bore to redeem us sinners from all our sins, repair the breech between us and the Father, and bring us home to His dwelling place. Nobody puts up a crucifix because it is pretty. Profound, yes, and awe inspiring but not pretty.
When St. Paul insisted that we preach Christ and Him crucified, St. Paul had in mind exactly that brutal and shocking image of Christ, the holy and righteous Son of God, wearing the ugliness of our sin and being obedient even to death on the cross to rescue us sinners by His blood. We have a far too idealized image of the cross -- one without a body or blood or shame (earthly shame, that is). Cursed is he who hangs on a tree, says the Word of God. His visage was so marred that He could not be seen without cringing, says the Scripture of Him who would suffer and die upon a cross.
Nope, we have made the cross something it never was -- pretty. But in doing so we rob the cross of its glory and we distort the profound character of the Gospel that Christ died for us while we were sinners and His enemies and not because He found something good in us or we deserved any of His redeeming love. We want a happy Jesus but this happy Jesus is a fake Jesus. The Jesus whom God reveals is the suffering servant of Isaiah, the wounded Messiah long promised, the flesh born to die, and the death that kills death once for all. It is not pretty or beautiful but it is compelling and, if the Spirit is at work in us, we cannot but look upon that cross in wonderment and awe. Who would do such a thing, bear such a price, and deliver such an unworthy people? Only Christ, the Son of God, who was in plan for just that moment from the foundation of the world.
There are representations of the cross that are extra life-like (should I say death-like) and they are hard to look at but to look away is to miss the most eloquent love ever revealed on earth -- that Christ should die for you and me and for the sake of the whole world save us from the sin we had grown so accustomed to and so comfortable with! We make friends with death but cannot look upon suffering and God hates death and bears the suffering of the whole world to release us from its curse. Can anyone explain that? No, no one can. But we can believe it and rejoice in the power of such love. And if we can do that, perhaps we will learn to find beauty even in suffering.