As a Carribean hurricane wipes out every shanty in its path, so the New Testament destroys all previous conceptions of God. That is not to say that there was never any understanding of God before Christ came. Confucius, the Stoics and indeed all religions everywhere no doubt have some revelation of God’s glory and beauty. All humans can understand something of God through creation (Rom. 1:20). However, before Jesus, God had never been known in his essence.
A bold claim indeed, but one that is clearly made in the New Testament. Paul says it was impossible for human beings to figure out God with their own wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25). God ordained that the only way to truly know him was through his foolishness, that is, through the death of a crucified messiah. Commenting on this passage, one scholar reminds us that,
“Death on a cross was regarded in Roman society … as brutal, disgusting, and abhorrent. It was reserved for convicted slaves and convicted terrorists, and could never be imposed upon a Roman citizen or more “respectable” criminals. It was so offensive to good taste that crucifixion was never mentioned in polite society, except through the use of euphemisms. For Gentiles who might imagine a “divine” savior figure, and for Jews who expected a Messiah anointed with power and majesty, the notion of a crucified Christ, a Messiah on the cross, was an affront and an outrage.”
No human being could have ever guessed that such a mangled spectacle has anything to do with a revelation of the power and glory of God.
When we consider that Jesus shows us precisely what God is like (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), the significance of the cross goes way beyond simply an understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection as the means of our salvation. Equally important is that Jesus’ Passion gives us an understanding of the nature of God. Indeed, the cross gives us a glimpse of the essence of God–love willing to suffer to the max for others.
As the exact image of God, Jesus shows us that God would choose to establish “justice and peace through his own death, rather than through the death of those who stood in his way.” God would ask for his executioners’ forgiveness even as he expired at their hands (Luke 23:34).
What happened through the cross was so inconceivable, no one could have imagined the “the length and breadth and height and depth” of the love of God that would go to such extremes for our sake. I titled this post, “A New Revelation of God.” Perhaps some are thinking, “That’s not very new. The church has believed Jesus fully reveals the nature of God for almost 2,000 years.” But have we come to grips with the idea that, if Jesus is God, then God is nonviolent love?
I find that making such a claim gets push back even from Christians. I will suggest in the next post one of the reasons for this is our love for and great faith in violence.
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