Because Jesus Died
As the great events of Holy Week approach, we again face the question of why Jesus died. Some reflections…
- Jesus died because he was completely human, not just a divine alien visitor wearing human skin. A part of the condition of being human is limitation. And the great limit is that nothing lasts forever. And so we die. For God to show his love by becoming one of us meant that he signed up for the whole package, including hurting and dying.
- Jesus came to make a new covenant between God and humanity. Today, we make covenants by signing our names to written contracts. The signature means that everything we own is on the line to back up our commitment to the other party of the contract. Before the age of universal literacy, serious covenants were made and sealed in blood. This indicated that both parties were placing their whole selves on the line in making the contract. Jesus came as God and as human. To seal the contract he gave all the blood and all the breath he possessed. This new and everlasting covenant between God and ourselves was thus sealed in the “Everything” that was Jesus himself.
- This covenant included liberation from sin and death. Like a mighty hero who rides into the enemy kingdom, Jesus allowed himself to be overpowered by darkness, to have the life sucked out of himself. Then, in the very bowels of death, he rose up in the power of God and vanquished the slavery of death itself. He wielded the Cross and defeated Satan and then completed the task by leaping into the dwelling place of God and throwing open the gates of heaven. This offered us hope and the availability of eternal life.
- In all of this, Jesus completed the work of mediator and builder. He crossed from God and his divinity to us and our humanity, completely embracing both and constructing a great bridge. To do this, he had to be firmly planted in both the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth, divinity and humanity. In his incarnation, life and death, resurrection and ascension, he built the everlasting bridge.
- Because Jesus did this (not Moses or George Washington), the work is eternal and cannot be taken away or diminished. We can choose to ignore it, but we can’t make it go away. When the spirit of evil whispers that we have sinned too much, too frequently, too deeply to ever be forgiven, we have only to stop and look, to realize and accept that we are on a bridge and in a covenant connection that will last forever.
And all of this because Jesus died.