I think I get why Jesus was crucified…

The longer and deeper I wade into theology, philosophy, history, and politics, the more I feel I get why Jesus was crucified. All of those things are to some level a study of humanity.

Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was a nice guy. He wasn’t crucified because he cared about the poor and the outcast. He wasn’t crucified because he said controversial things that conflicted with those in authority and the established norms of the time and culture. He wasn’t crucified because he gathered some people around him to practice a new way of living.

He was crucified because he was seen as a legitimate threat. He was a threat to the established powers and status quo of those powers. He was a threat to established assumptions of what the norm was in the culture. He was a threat to the core of the established authorities’ identities and what authority was about. He was a threat to core creedal beliefs that societies operate on – assumptions that are not allowed to be questioned.

His message exposed core identities and beliefs for what they were and those folks didn’t like being exposed. It didn’t make them look good. His call to follow and to live differently from the established norm was perceived by some in authority as a threat that came with a great cost. We aren’t talking about material things when it comes down to it. Sure, Jesus talked about selling possessions and giving them away, but the real threat in that goes far beyond the material.

Jesus was a threat to our idols and false gods that we put our faith in. Jesus was a threat to the creeds that humanity is so very closely tied with and that shape how humanity lives on a daily basis, regardless of what we claim to believe.

His message and way of being is a threat to our need to be better than someone else, rather than to serve people, to adopt humility, to empty ourselves and our ego. Is it even possible to do that? Consistently?

His message and way of being is a threat to the core creed of only the strong survive. What else to make of his call to followers to pick up their cross and follow him. This is a call to die to self, to pick up the very thing that will kill you and carry it, following Jesus. Where’s the strength in that? Only the strong survive? Jesus busts that lie wide open. Everyone dies. It’s a matter of when and why. The better question is what are we living for? What matters? How are we in relationship with God and others? How are we loving our neighbors and our enemies? Loving people is about being vulnerable and humble. Only the strong survive is about protecting yourself and putting up a wall of distrust. Is it even possible to live as Jesus teaches? Consistently?

His message and way of being is a threat to the core creed of the ends justify the means. Oh how the world and humanity attach ourselves to this creed. We don’t like to be exposed to our addiction to this belief. We’ll deny it with ferocity – of course we will, because the ends justify the means after all. That’s what we really believe. But Jesus’ way was to show that the means and the ends are both important. His is the way after all, not the ends. The means matter. Because that’s what relationship with God and others is – a means. Not to an end, but the whole point. When relationships are just a means to an ends, then we have dehumanized, taken the image of God out of, ourselves and others. We become just an object and a tool to be used. Is it even possible to live as Jesus teaches about the means and the ends? And do it consistently?

His message and way of being is a threat to the core creedal belief that might makes right. Jesus calls on followers to be peacemakers – says that they are blessed. Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit. Blessed are those that mourn. Blessed are the persecuted. Blessed are those who have no might and no standing and no authority. Blessed are those who are human and feel humanity to their core. Blessed are those who are authentic enough to know that something isn’t right and to be honest about it and to question it. Is it even possible to live as Jesus teaches? To know that it isn’t the might that makes right – it isn’t a focus on who is right at all. It’s on seeing the humanity in ourselves and those around us, seeing the complexity and messiness and pain and suffering and brokenness and in spite of it all, or maybe because of that, we can see God’s love poured out generously. Is it possible to do this consistently?

When you boil it all down, it’s really just Jesus asking a simple question – who/what is your god?

Look at how humanity acts and you get a glimpse of the god(s) it worships and follows. Humanity is pretty bad at hiding its actual beliefs. Our actions come from what we hold to be true after all.

So who is our God? Is it possible to answer this honestly? Or is honesty just too much of a threat? Is it such a threat that we need to silence the one who is asking? Do we need to crucify the one whose very life brings up the question?

All through this, I’ve been asking if it’s possible for us to follow Jesus’ way. The answer is no. Certainly not on our own and with any type of long term consistency. And that’s the point. Humanity has shown throughout all of history its incapacity to follow the way that Jesus lays out. Call it love, or peace, or shalom, or Imago Dei, or whatever else you want to call it. Humanity is either incapable or unwilling to follow this way because these things are a threat to what we think being godlike is really about – power, force, and getting our own way.

Which really gets to the heart of the question – who is your god? Regardless of what the answer is, if the answer is not God – all the answers point to one answer: ourselves. If we were capable of consistently living the way of Jesus, then we wouldn’t need God. We wouldn’t need Jesus. We wouldn’t need any type of salvation. We wouldn’t need outside help. We wouldn’t need so much. We could just do it on our own. And that’s what really gets exposed in all of this – the lie that we can do it. The lie that we are god. We don’t like to have a lie exposed. Especially a lie we are trying to convince ourselves of over our entire lives. A lie we have invested money, energy, time, our identity, work, and so much more into.

If I have any faith in humanity at all, it is that humanity will do what it has always done. Humanity has been at this for a long, long time and it will continue long after I am gone and forgotten. My faith is from God. That’s not a statement of privilege or that I’m somehow better at this than anyone else. I’m not. I’m asking the question if it is possible to follow Jesus’ way at all. That’s a self-reflection question that I struggle with.

So what is this faith that God gives? A faith that tells me a truth I don’t like – that I can’t do it on my own. That more often than not, I just can’t do it at all – regardless of what “it” is. A truth that I am in need – I need others, I need help, I need mercy, I need love, I need forgiveness, I need relief. A truth that shatters my built up and protected identity and leaves me with a humble and humbling question of what is really important to me and why – questions without easy, simple answers. A truth that strips away false faiths in so many things, but leaves me with faith is just a few core things and makes those things very clear. A truth that allows me to forgive myself and others – and to see how hard that really is. A truth that bids me to follow a path I will not get correct and yet, no one said I had to – I imposed that on myself. A truth that calls me to be more radical than I thought was possible. How dangerous that is? Yet so very necessary. And what is radical about it? That it is just so very honest.

A truth that sets me free – free to be who I am. Free to do what I am called to do. Free to know that I am not in control and never have been. Free to follow. Free to fail. Free to be picked up again. Free to be human.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *