Last night at Good Friday service at Grace Covenant Church, the word “juxtaposition” stood out to me in the sermon. Juxtaposition is a literary term which means two contrasting things being placed side by side. As a writer, I love metaphors and symbolism. My favorite genre? Romance. In my walk, I’m seeing how much Jesus Christ, being the very Word of God, is a living love story. In this article, I’m going to lay out some pieces of that love story as evidenced in the juxtaposition of the cross.
Judgement vs. Love
The cross represented the juxtaposition of God’s perfect judgement and perfect love.
Because of God’s righteousness--His holiness, cleanliness, purity and justice-- He could not let crime go unpunished. We can all agree that there are consequences for disobedience in this life. Our love for our family members, for instance, causes us to rage with anger when someone does an injustice against them. How much more does God rage with anger when people sin against His Son, His Namesake? But here’s the punch: the same people He loves are the ones sinning against Him. Us! As Almighty God and Righteous Judge, God had to punish sin. Yet, because of His great love for us, He stepped in and redeemed us from damnation. Therefore, Jesus was executed as a criminal, paying the full penalty for the sins of a fallen world.
Guilt vs. Innocence
Let me be clear. Jesus was completely blameless. He did not violate a single spiritual, moral or legal law. Neither Pontius Pilate nor Herod, the governing authorities of Rome and the Jewish people, respectively, could find any grounds to execute Him (Luke 23:14-15).
Yet, because God made the precedent in Genesis that bloodshed must cover sin and He cannot go back on His Word, Jesus became the atoning sacrifice. He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). This perfect Lamb, the picture of innocence, transformed into sin and was murdered in order that we may be made pure and blameless before God. Had He not allowed Himself to become sin, to become our dirty laundry, the punishment would have been unjust. Yet, God is fully just. The punishment fight the crime.
That is why God had to look away for a moment, causing Jesus to say, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” We cannot stand in the Presence of Almighty God looking like trash. He is too holy. Our presence would contaminate Him. In that moment, all of our junk got written on Jesus. He was assigned our sin.
That’s why He feels every single pain we go through. He identified with us in our sin and weakness so that we could identify with Him in His righteousness and strength. So, now, anytime we approach God’s throne in prayer, we are not seen through the lens of our deeds, but through the lens of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. We are CLEAN. His blood washed us white as snow.
Servanthood vs. Lordship
Christ gave the perfect model as to how to walk in submission yet carry the glory of a king. He, being King, humbled Himself in perfect obedience until death. In the Garden before He was arrested, He asked the Father if He could escape this tragic death, yet surrendered His emotions to God’s will. (“Yet not My will, but Yours be done”). All throughout His ministry, Jesus taught that in order to be lord of all, you have to be servant of all first.
In life, we don’t start out with the highest positions and titles. You move from intern to CEO, from assistant to President. Jesus did it the same way on earth. He served the world and then inherited the kingdom of heaven. He dealt with people in their messiness so that, one day, they would thank Him, repent of their wrongdoing, and be transformed into His perfect image.
Is anyone shouting yet?! My God is worthy to be praised!!!! I’m so grateful that I believe in a God who knows pain. A human who knows the struggle. He’s not some bodiless energy. He has a heart that’s been broken time and time again. He has knees that grew weak. He has flesh that was bruised. He has been tempted, tormented and cursed at.
I get it. I get how it may be hard to believe in Jesus. I would be lying if I said that I never questioned my faith before. But if you have been seeking “God--” whatever that may mean to you, I want you to know that He’s alive. He has created you to laugh, to sing, to dance, to cry, to write. He is a PERSON. He revealed the fullness of His character and love in human likeness because that’s how we are wired to receive love.
As much as nature is comforting, it can’t hold us at night. As much as the sky is beautiful, it doesn’t have the artistry to create us. As much as the stars and the moon are breathtaking, they don’t look like us. We are made in God’s image. His name is Jesus Christ. And He loves us immensely. Passionately.
He’s tender-hearted and gentle. He’s the whisper in your ear, the reassurance that everything is going to be all right.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Your faith, whatever you believe, has to affirm that God is good. He’s a giver of good gifts. He is a Father who leaves an inheritance for His children. That FULL inheritance is in Christ. You can’t reap the benefits of a son or a daughter if you deny God’s Son. We don’t even know what it means to be a son or daughter except for the example of the First.
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, opens up your heart to receive the precious gift of life, acceptance and forgiveness found in Christ. May you know how deeply you are loved. Your sins have already been forgiven. The door of the prison is open. You just have to walk out and be free. But you have to want to be free. That process of freedom and healing takes a lifetime. It hurts, but each step gets sweeter.