Today you will hear a story not fit for church. Which is ironic, because if it weren’t for this story, our church would not exist. Neither would any church, for that matter. But honestly, in some ways the story of the crucifixion has very little place in our church atmosphere. Think about it. Just stop from your reading for a moment and take a look around you. What do you see?
I’m imagining you seated in a pew before the beginning of our worship service. Light from the three large windows fills the room. Perhaps there is a buzz of conversation taking place around you, punctuated by the occasional squeal from a baby. People are laughing and greeting one another with hugs and slaps on the back. Children are talking to each other while their parents are herding them to their seats. Colorful slides are rotating on the screen at the front—pictures of parties and baby showers and other joyful events.
What in the world does this place have to do with Golgotha, the place of the skull, the scene of the crucifixion? How can we possibly be expected to confront the savagery of a place like that while seated in a place like this? How can we possibly hear the screams of agony that come from Christ, and the screams of derision that come from his persecutors, and the cries of sorrow that come from his family and friends while we are here in this room filled with gentle voices?
And I will not mention the horrible sights. There is a reason that Mel Gibson’s movie was Rated R. These sights are difficult to process when we are surrounded by neatly manicured people dressed in vibrant Sunday clothing.
Nevertheless, today I will talk about the crucifixion. Not in grisly detail. Actually I don’t plan on dwelling on the physical aspects of Jesus’ death at all. I’m much more interested in the spiritual nature of it and what that means for us.
But don’t be fooled. The spiritual details aren’t pretty either. They, too, are hardly fit for church-at least the spiritually sanitized church that you and I generally prefer. The spiritual situation that brought about the events of Jesus’ death are not easy to talk about or sit with. In examining the crucifixion, we are confronted with the worst of human nature. If we sit back and ask ourselves, “How did it come to this—the execution of an innocent (a perfectly innocent) man?” then we are confronted by the sin that we all carry around with us.
But there is good news. In the midst of the spiritual and physical horror there is more than enough love. If there weren’t, then Jesus would have never been crucified. We’ll talk more about it this morning.