By The Very Rev. Douglas Travis
An innocent man – a man utterly undeserving of death – dies the cruelest death of all. Why? Indeed, Pilate (a man scarcely known for showing mercy!) himself protest that “he has done nothing to deserve death”! And yet this man must die.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of a follower of Jesus is to hope for what Jesus hopes for. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom – the very reign of God present now! Jesus declared that the promises human hearts yearn to see fulfilled were fulfilled in him, but the fulfillment was not what people expected. If you make me a promise but do not fulfill it as I expect you to, you have betrayed me! “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Make no mistake about it. Jesus died because we – you and I – hung him on the cross. Though this particular man died this particular death at this particular time and in this particular place, you and I continue to hammer the nails into his hand and feet whenever we refuse to see the reign of God present with us now because it isn’t what we wish it to be. We continue to execute the Innocent One whenever we are disappointed that he is not the Messiah we yearn for.
The point of this is not to instill guilt or sorrow. Rather the point is to wake up! To watch! To see. A god I define is no god and cannot satisfy. The God who satisfies my heart loves me and you so much that this God will die for us, but this God will not let us define God. Indeed, this God loves us so much that he’d rather die than let us define him, because God knows that if we define God we lose God, and God’s paramount desire is to give God’s very self to us.
How can we relate the invasion of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites to the crucifixion of Jesus?
How does the death of Jesus serve God’s fulfilling the divine promise of the messiah?
God of love, in your presence and your love, grant us the power to hope for what you hope for!
The Very Rev. Douglas Travis is President and Dean of the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.