This is a Good Friday reading prepared for one of the seven movements in our services at Imago Dei tonight.
The Judge is judged in our place. Jesus bears our punishment, takes upon himself the divine condemnation for sin.
But what does this mean? Some today say this is divine child abuse: a vindictive father beating the snot out of his innocent son.
First, Jesus is not a 5-year old. Not a hapless, passive victim. Jesus is an active agent at the cross: a jaguar out to devour death, a pro-wrestler who tackles the cross to body slam it.
Long before, Luke tells us, Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem,” set his gaze like flint, then like an arrow streaming toward its target, made his way to atone for sin and reconcile the world.
No one takes Jesus’ life from him; he gives it, and he gives it in love: for us.
Second, what is the punishment? The penalty for sin, throughout the biblical story, is exile and death. Adam & Eve in the Garden: want to be like God rather than with God, and receive the just desserts of their desire for distance–cast out, banished from the Fruitful Land. Israel’s rebellion: after centuries of God’s patience, gets her booted from the Promised Land—into exile and national death.
So when Jesus is rejected and banished, cast outside the city and hung out to dry: the Roman cross is his exile under the Gentile powers, his death in the distant land of the grave.
Jesus carries the weight of Israel’s rebellion, takes on Adam’s distance from God, bears OUR exile and death—the punishment for sin—in order to bring us home.
The Judge is judged in our place.
Third, the cross is a Triune act. The Father is working through the Son, and in the Spirit, as our One God for the redemption of the world.
Historically, the Church understood the cross not as a break in the Trinity, not as a rupture between the Father and Son in their divine essence. Rather, if there was a distinction to be made, a tension to be upheld, it was in the Son’s divinity and humanity.
In his humanity, Jesus is bearing our distance from the presence of God upon himself.
Yet simultaneously, in his divinity, Jesus is bearing the presence of God within himself into our distance.
Let me repeat that, because this is huge: as our Great Mediator, Jesus bears our distance from the presence of God upon himself, yet simultaneously bears the presence of God within himself into our distance.
Jesus is the presence of the Father, come to join us in the distant land, to bind himself in union with us in the power of his Spirit, in order to raise us through the vicarious humanity of Christ into the presence of the Triune God.
He himself, His very Presence, is the source of our healing. So God enters our God-forsakenness at the cross and brings his Presence there. God carries our condemnation of Himself at the cross, and condemns the destructive power of our Sin in the cross, in order to raise us from the punishment of the grave.
To set us free and bring us home: the Judge is judged in our place.