Rush hour traffic, New York City. The taxi driver swerved hard left to avoid collision, cursed and sped forward. I had just told him about my first encounter with Jesus Christ, and how love had won over skepticism. In response, he had craned his neck to talk about God as Creator, one to be feared and obeyed, but not to have relationship with. “Consider this,” I said, “on a hill outside of Jerusalem God watched His Son die so that you and I could become His child.” He shook his head in disbelief, and with my eyes I motioned to him to pay attention to the road ahead. Through our conversation the Holy Spirit kept shining light upon the person of Christ. I felt like a spectator, as He made His appeal through me, reinforcing the idea that God is love; even as my new friend braked hard to miss rear-ending an ice cream truck.
The day God died represents a profound and disturbing truth. God in Christ, crucified for my darkest trespasses, mine and your hope of glory, because he added no bones to that barren rocky heap. Of all the reasons for His torturous and excruciating death, one stands paramount. He knew that love could not be conveyed any better way. It is a love steeped in sacrifice; a willingness of power to fall under weakness in order to give weakness power. The broken husk of Jesus’ body represents the breaking of a vessel in which pure light exists. If that vase hadn’t been crushed, light would have stayed in the heavens, left unseen to human eyes. But once it was cracked and burst asunder, then love in it’s fullest meaning could be seen, comprehended, and received. God needed to bleed in order to show the world this truth; that love must live larger than common kindness, and it must die in order to put value to its object. If God hadn’t suffered, then how could man ever believe that His love was meant for him?
This is why I make it about Jesus.
As death reigned in that fateful hour, Christ’s life would reach the apex of it’s purpose, to show man a love far different than any yet experienced. Death drove love to the brink and beyond, to annihilation. Yet, death’s finest hour turned into the hinge for love’s final triumph. The deeper knowledge that Aslan the Lion embodied, was not visible in the sheered and pitiful carcass of a dead animal. But in His return to life, though He became no less feared, He was marvelously inviting. This is the knowledge withheld from death’s sneering spite—to bend the heart of man toward Love through a costly invitation.
C.S. Lewis said, “We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor.” Our hearts are open and vulnerable in willing sacrifice. When God chooses to harrow us through this vulnerable openness to die over and over again for loves object, then His work of grace, that generous kindness elevates our heart to a place that prepares it for heaven. Those brave enough to love in kind with the Paschal mystery of our Savior, truly break the vessel, our body of sin, and mirror a kind of love that stood on a single nail upon a cruel instrument of death, and looked out at an audience of hate, and chose to love. Pressed on though blinded by pain, yet He loved, loved, loved–the ones who mocked, the ones who mourned, the ones who waited and the ones who fled. No single moment in history marks a more profound alchemy, then how God transformed guile into a glorious agape love. It’s how He planned to break His own Canister, in order for the human race to see the brilliance of love. God indeed died that day, the paschal event remains just that, a head scratching transcendent mystery, which gave to man the ability to see, comprehend and receive the love of God.
This is why I make it about Jesus.
Outside our apartment in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, the taxi sat idling. We didn’t want our exchange to end, but he had other fares, and I had a Bible study to lead. The Holy Spirit had led our exchange to be all about Jesus, the living force of love in the soul of man. It was something he could not refute, and I asked God to seal those words deep inside him, until it would push him off his smug pedestal, and let him fall into the gracious and generous arms of a loving God.