Summary: Jesus went willingly to His death for our sakes, to fulfill the covenant obligation God freely took on with Abraham.
We killed Him. O, I know the Roman procurator read the sentence, and Roman soldiers beat Jesus and crowned Him with thorns and hammered in the nails. They were what philosophers would call the “efficient cause” of Christ’s death. But Adam and Eve and David and Caligula and Napoleon and you and I–we are the final cause of Christ’s death. Every act of murder and infidelity and theft and extortion, every line of gossip and intended thought of revenge and lust that separated any human being from God’s grace was the reason Jesus had to die, the reason He willed Himself to be unjustly crucified. Yes, we killed Him. He loved us sinners and so He had to die.
It’s ironic that the only infinite thing that we finite creatures can do of ourselves is to sin. When we sin, we commit an infinite offense because we sin against the Divine Will. We turn our backs on our Creator, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier. We treat His gift of divine life as garbage. We say, “well, we’ve already had a couple of kids so we’ll rely on contraception instead of natural methods and avoid any more. Yes, it’s not God’s plan, but it’s a better plan.” We think, “the Federal government misuses our money for all kinds of awful things, so I’ll shave my income and avoid paying all that tax.” We lie, cheat and steal, not because they are evil, but because they give us some advantage in life–in this life–or so we think.
So an infinite offense demands infinite satisfaction. The covenant is broken, and somebody has to pay. That’s the way life is, isn’t it? The ancient people formalized it thousands of years ago. Abraham, our father in faith, heard God’s call and said “yes” whenever he was commanded to do something. So God made three covenants with Abraham, and promised him a land and an eternal posterity, countless descendants. The last of the covenants was one-sided. Abraham had obeyed God all the way to the brink of offering his only son as a sacrifice. So God made the one-sided covenant with Abraham, promising him eternal faithfulness, even to the point of God paying the price if Abraham’s descendants violated the agreement. The ultimate price, of course, is death. And to keep that promise, the very Son of God, second Person of the Trinity, battered and bruised and bloody, climbed the hill of Calvary and willingly suffered and died for us, in our stead. Abraham was ready to offer his only-begotten son, but didn’t have to do it. God, though, loved us so much that He did give His only-begotten Son, and we gather over the next two weeks in a special double octave to praise and thank Him and celebrate that incredible gift.
In reflecting on the passion and death of Jesus, I recall some thoughts I had when I was a child. Jesus was divine, after all, so the pain of his suffering was really nothing in His divine person. He could take it like one of us could take a pin-prick or a paper cut. It mustn’t have been a big deal.