Lesson 8: God in the Theology of the Cross

sufferingMany theologians maintained it was impossible to have faith in God after the Nazi genocide of six million Jews. How could God allow the German nation to slaughter his chosen people? Ivan, in The Brothers Karamazov, claims you don’t have to go that far. The abuse and murder of just one innocent baby speaks against the existence of God. Certainly, any sensitive person must ask where a loving God is in either of these horrors.

A theology of the cross refuses to dodge the question. Instead, it recognizes this question has been a primary challenge to our message since the very beginning. The biblical account of the crucifixion raises the same question when Jesus is repeatedly mocked. The soldiers hail Jesus as the king of the Jews after dressing him in a purple robe and crown of thorns. Pilate places a sign on the weapon of execution declaring he is the king of the Jews. The chief priests and scribes claim he cannot be the Lord’s chosen if he cannot save himself. Those passing by ask why, if he is Son of God, he does not come down from the cross. The thieves plead, if he is who he says he is, he should save himself and them with him.

Obviously, the early Christians were challenged with the question that confronts us today. They understood when they insisted the execution of the Christ was central to their message, they were assailing the popular picture of God. Nevertheless, they made clear when God came to dwell among his people, he did not come as the Almighty One whose power overcomes all opposition. Instead he emptied himself of power and came as the man Jesus, who lived the love he taught in all its vulnerability. He became a victim when teaching God’s Word with integrity alienated the powerful of his society. It is apparent it was the weakness of love rather than the power of violence that led to his resurrection.

Proclaiming this kind of God flies in the face of our usual concept of the deity. We want the divine to provide us power to get what we want and answers to the questions we ask. A theology of glory is far more comfortable than a theology of the cross. Still embracing this theology might be key to finding God in our world.

Matthew acknowledges this when he maintains we should look for Christ in the those suffering around us: the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the imprisoned, the persecuted. He and Luke reinforce it in their beatitudes when Jesus claims the blessed are the least among us. The crucified remains among the suffering. God is found among the slain, which means he shares the horror of the Jews and the infant.

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