The people killed Jesus “by hanging him on a tree.” They stood and watched; they reviled him, and so they reviled their nature, their humanity, their dignity. The brutal death of Jesus inflicted a wound also in the hearts of those who conspired against him, who betrayed him, and who watched for the sick pleasure of seeing a dying man writhe upon a wooden beam.
Old black-and-white photos show their faces: men, women, and children who went out to witness a public lynching. However good people may be at times, it is hard to dismiss the gravity of sin, the sheer allure of evil. People do not merely commit evil; they enjoy it. Jesus’ death was a day’s entertainment for depraved human souls. It is still happening.
What is wrong with human beings? “We have no power in ourselves to help ourselves,” the Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent says. Left to our own devices, we are lost. Even our best intentions and our evident virtues, whatever they may be, are tainted. But God has exalted the one who was crucified to offer repentance and forgiveness and to give us the witness and presence of the Holy Spirit.
God in Christ has undergone the worst of human evil and yet stood firm in the divine desire to forgive sinners and call into being a new humanity (Acts 5:31-32). The life of Jesus Christ is our life; he has rewritten the human story, transforming every phase and moment so that we might be, in union with him, sons and daughters of God. We are in Christ, with Christ, living from and by Christ.
“On this day the Lord has acted” (1979 BCP, p. 762). God has acted in freeing his people from bondage, in leading them through the Red Sea on dry land, in giving them food from heaven and water from a dry rock, in leading them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and dispersing them according to the number of their tribes and families.
God has acted in sending his Son to teach us, to heal us, to forgive us, to give us new and eternal life through him. God has acted. John Fisher, the esteemed 16th-century English Catholic, wrote this in his commentary on Psalm 101: “All these things are most certain indications of God’s great love and beneficence toward us; they are not arguments (non argumenta sed indicia).” God is not a disputation.
Jesus is not arguing; he is commanding in the power of his divine being. He speaks to our doubt not with a limping and lifeless empathy. No. He speaks in all love and with all power in a series of imperatives. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Jesus commands faith into being, and in that moment the life of Christ becomes the life of a disciple.
Speaking of our time, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29b). And yet even we have a kind of seeing and touching that is no less real than during Jesus’ earthly ministry. “Put out your hand, take my body broken for you, eat it and know that I live in you forevermore. Drink the cup of my shed blood for the life of the world. Touch the world and your neighbor as if touching me.”
Jesus is his own sign of the resurrection.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 118:27-29.
Think About It
Exult and give thanks.