Holy Week 2012: Death and Life

Read:  John 12: 20-36

We only hear the voice of God a few times in the Gospels.  This is one of those times.  God speaks about a soon-t0-come “glorification.”  Jesus interprets it (again—see John 3:14) in relation to the serpent being lifted up by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9)—a paradoxical image that both represents death and life.

Holy Week reminds us of both these things.  First, Jesus became sin (2 Cor. 5:21a).  The snake is impaled.  When we look at the Cross, we never have to ask if sin is real.  It is so real that Jesus had to “become sin” in order to defeat it.  And in that moment, he experienced the horror of feeling forsaken.

But second, Jesus conquered sin (2 Cor 5:21b).  The venom becomes the medicine.  The disease is transformed into the cure.  Christus Victor!  The Cross becomes the means through which we are made righteous.

When I think of the Cross in this way, it is a kind of “martial arts” experience.  It is taking the power of the opponent and transferring it into the power of the other.  That which would have destroyed us, has now lost its power over us—the ruler of this world has been cast out—and that power is now unleashed as the power of God.  In this way, God and Jesus could both speak of “glorification.”

Death has been swallowed up (1 Cor. 15:54), taken into the mouth of him who then “digested it” and declared, “It is finished!”

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books.
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