"The Day Creation Fell Apart"
John 18-19 with Romans 5:8
Viewing God’s judgment in such a way sounds, well, a bit humorous, as though God merely sits on a cloud and shoots down His lightning bolt judgments on various human behaviors, even somewhat arbitrarily. And in our day, many believe that God certainly cannot get angry. After all, He’s a loving God, you know.
So, does God get angry? If so, why? And how does He express that anger or judgment? And upon whom? That’s what Good Friday is all about. The death of Jesus around AD 30 forces us to confront how seriously God takes human sin…and, more importantly, what He does about it.
Through Lent we have explored how God works in and through creation to carry out His purposes. When God blesses, creation flourishes and life abounds. When He curses or judges, creation falls apart and life ceases to exist. The Bible gives many examples of God’s blessing and God’s cursing.
When God created the earth, He blessed it. Life sprouted and blossomed, animals and humans became fruitful and multiplied in number. But also, when Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground. Now that very earth that gave us life would grind us back into dust. And what happened in the flood of Noah’s day? Man’s great evil was judged, the earth and the skies opened with water, creation fell apart.
We can see similar things in our day. But without a clear word of revelation from God, let’s not declare a particular tragedy as God’s judgment on a particular action. But we can speak in a more general way. You see, God’s blessing and curse are embedded in creation. We realize this especially when we remember that everyone dies—sometimes subtly and slowly, other times suddenly and tragically.
We see this in our own bodies. Our own bodies carry God’s creative blessing as well as His judgment. God gives us life through our parents, and He sustains and nourishes that life as we grow into adulthood. But as we grow and age, we also see our bodies slowly fall apart, no matter how healthy we may be.
And because of us, the creation suffers as well. By God’s blessing, planet earth has a stable orbit, babies are born, vineyards grow, and life springs forth, despite sin and evil in the world. At the same time, the curse embedded in the earth fills our lives with toils and worries and tragedies and widespread death. Again, not necessarily specific punishments for specific sins, but certainly times for us to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
We especially see God’s blessing and God’s curse on Good Friday. God pours out His wrath upon His only-begotten Son. Jesus dies in His created body, the body He took from His mother, Mary. And so Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His spirit/breath.” His body falls apart. It stops functioning. It stops moving. And creation suffers too. The sky darkened and the earth quaked. Creation fell apart—ripped apart at the seams. Jesus’ body grew limp. He was taken down from the cross, wrapped, and placed into a stone tomb.
But as we ponder the death of Jesus, let’s do more than merely dwell on His physical agony—the nails through His hands and feet, the dehydration, the asphyxiation. After all, many others suffered the very same agonies and even for much longer than six hours. And their suffering is not nearly as significant for us or for others. Now, we do not take Jesus’ physical agony lightly, but we do focus on what made His suffering unique. What made Jesus’ agony and bitter pains unique in human history? In that one created human body, Jesus experienced the full outpouring and venting of God’s wrath upon the entire human race from Adam and Eve to the present day. Jesus experienced all of the wrath that God could use to annihilate the world and everything in it. Remember Jesus’ words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” God’s wrath is being abandoned by God, rather than embraced by Him. And when God abandons us or His creation, everything falls apart.
God does withdraw His support. He does turn His back on the human race and His creation. But He does so to Jesus in our place. St. Paul writes: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Died for us? What does this mean? Jesus died in our place. He died so that we may not have to endure God’s eternal displeasure and disappointment.
The Bible calls this an “atoning sacrifice,” or “propitiation.” This Jesus turns aside God’s wrath. He deflects God’s anger off us and onto Himself. Just as a lightning rod attracts a bolt of lightning, absorbs it, and dissipates it into nothing, that’s what Christ does for us. He attracts the wrath of God to Himself so it will not strike us. He absorbs it and He dissipates it until it is no more. This is no mere man who dies, but the very Son of God in the flesh. He absorbs all of God’s wrath against all of humanity. And He does so in His creaturely body.
So as God turns His back on Jesus, He turns His loving face toward us!
That means we can be certain of God’s love for us. Look how He showed and acted upon that love: He sacrificed His own Son. That’s how much He wanted—and still wants—you and me. That’s how much He wanted—and still wants—us to enjoy the benefits of His love and His gift of life. Let’s never take it for granted, because, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). Amen.