The Cross: Where Love and Righteousness Collide

LEAH FARISH|GUEST

With angels singing and kings bowing, God gave us His perfect Son at Christmas. And on Good Friday, we killed Him. So with Easter, He gave Christ to us again.

More than any other human in history, Jesus Christ had “the power of an indestructible life.” (ESV) As God, He was eternal and immortal. Yet He did truly die.

Nothing could have snatched His life from unwilling hands. Government tried, when Herod sought to kill Him in the cradle. Satan tried in vain to tempt Him to suicide.  Stormy waves didn’t harm Him—He walked on the water and slept through the thunder.  Hunger and thirst only seemed to make Him more formidable. Only one thing could kill Him: judgment— for your sin and mine.

Even this arrangement did not have to kill Jesus; the Father designed it to be so. For three hours on the cross, He removed that “power of an indestructible life” and made Jesus vulnerable to the judgment that the rest of us so richly deserve. And Jesus willingly cooperated in this plan!

But our sin did not have to be a problem for God. He could have just shrugged and said, “Ugh. Enough of that project. Humanity belongs in the cosmic dumpster.” Our sin was only a problem if He wanted to be with us. A holy God can’t commune with sinful mortals—not fully, not forever. He wanted to be our bridegroom, friend, and eternal Father. Something had to be done.

My Muslim friends have said, “God can wave His hand and say, ‘I forgive you.’ He doesn’t have to die or kill anyone over it.” And I say, “Yes, I can imagine a universe like that. The question is, is that the universe we live in?”

It is not. We live in a real universe where God came into it, at a certain time and a certain place, in human form to:

give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)

give Him up for us all (Rom 8:32)

die for us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:8)

come into the world to save sinners (I Tim. 1:5)

sprinkle us with His blood (1 Peter 1:2)

bear our sins in His body on the Tree (I Peter 2:24)

be put to death in the flesh to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18)

offer Himself without blemish to God, so that His blood can purify our conscience (Heb. 9:14)

put Him forward as a propitiation by His blood (Rom. 3:25)

Into real history, He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I John 4:10). In this shocking, bloody way, He demonstrated His love for sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Yes, theoretically He could have waved His hand and forgiven all sin. He could have just ignored sin—or change His own rules. It would be like a government official observing, “Lots of people are running that stop sign at 3rd and Main. So let’s take out that stop sign.” But had God done so, He would have violated His own holy nature. He would have compromised His righteousness, bending the same rules of holiness He had required us to live under and die under. This would have been grotesque. Did He at some point demand that we conform to His standards, yet He does not have to?  Of course He conforms to His own standards—His very nature is holy. And if He doesn’t require perfect righteousness, why would He need to forgive sin at all?

Instead, He demonstrated not just love but also righteousness on the cross:

Now the righteousness of God has been manifested (Rom. 3:21).

This was to show God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25).

It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

I have always secretly believed that one of the reasons God chose the cross as Christ’s instrument of death is that it depicts an intersection—the collision of love with righteousness.

On the cross, these two glories were in equipoise. And with His burial, it looked like the scales tilted permanently toward judgment.

But because of the power of His indestructible life, He came again. God gave Him to us, and after we crucified Him, He gave Him to us again. Christ rose and came right back, to those who had denied Him. He gave us a do-over! As I Cor. 13 says, “Love never fails.”  That’s the power of an indestructible life—a holy and indestructible love.

About the Author:

Leah Farish

Leah Farish teaches college courses on law, language, and public speaking in Oklahoma.  She also heads a nonprofit which encourages volunteerism.  She and her husband attend Christ Presbyterian in Tulsa, when she is not working on behalf of women in North Africa or the Middle East.

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