Matthias Grünewald

The Crucifixion- Matthias Grünewald

As we approach Good Friday, we are surrounded by songs, sermons, and images of the death of Jesus.  Yet when we think about the death of Jesus, we are not simply talking about the death of a man; we are talking about the death of the God-man.

To many, the thought of “God dying” is troublesome, confusing, a stumbling block, or even outright blasphemous.  For others, it only makes sense – but for them the death of God has nothing to do with crucifixion.

I remember it as though it were yesterday.  It was probably 2007, and I was in one of the cafeterias at Murray State University.  Every day, we had a group of about thirty or so fraternity brothers that would sit at the same tables for lunch.  One day in particular, a fraternity brother walked into the cafeteria holding a book.  I couldn’t help but be drawn to the book, especially when I noticed the title of the book was The Death of God.  Needless to say, so began about a two hour conversation.

This young man (and his book) was assuming the position of a Time Magazine article on Oct. 22, 1965, which read as follows, “We must recognize that the death of God is a historical event: God has died in our time, in our history, in our existence.”

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said a century earlier, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”

In other words, to the modern mind, the thought of the existence of God is utterly unthinkable.

But the question is why?

In short, one of the great stumbling blocks to so many people for believing in or loving God is the presence of suffering and injustice in the world.  Often, this is called “the problem of evil.”   Essentially, the “god” of traditional religion had seemingly said over the past few centuries, “Do good and I will reward you. Obey me, and you’ll have your best life now.”  While the Scriptures do not teach this, it still remained the understanding of so many.  However, this notion of “God” no longer seemed feasible as it became increasingly clear that millions and millions of seemingly good people were suffering and dying on a regular basis.

For example, even in considering three men – Hitler, Stalin, and Mao – virtually all historians agree that these three men and their ruthless tyrannies were responsible for the deaths of at least 200 million lives.  So, the question is, “Where was God when 6 million Jews were slaughtered?”  The conclusion was that either God doesn’t exist, or that He’s aloof and uninvolved.

However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ addresses this.  At least in part, people like Friedrich Nietzsche are right in saying that the injustices of the world mean that God must die.  However, what they don’t understand is that our God died voluntarily.  God didn’t simply turn His back on the suffering of the world, but He embraced the suffering of the world.

Jesus Christ is the only One who claims to be God, but doesn’t simply write us a book and send it down from heaven telling us how to deal with evil and injustice. Instead, Jesus Christ himself left heaven and He bore the evil and injustice in His own body on the cross.

Jesus bore infanticide.  He bore mass murders.  He bore poverty, sickness, and starvation.  In essence, He bore the sins of the world, and everything that comes with it.  Jesus experienced it all.  He bore the curse of the world; He bore the curse of injustice, racism, and hatred.  He absorbed in His body and soul all of these things, and then His Father crushed him.  As Jesus died and rose again, He defeated death, sickness, disease, and injustice.

As Jesus died and rose again, He reversed the curse, and now we are only waiting for the day when He comes back to make a reality what He has already accomplished.  On that great and dreadful day, there will be no more injustice, no more suffering, and no more tears, because all of these things will lie underneath the feet of Jesus.

The first step in journeying into the “problem of evil” is to grasp the fact that Jesus Christ was clothed in evil on the cross, and His blood and resurrection assure us there is coming a day when we will see evil no more.  Jesus Christ came and died so that He could end evil – without ending us.