Today in Church for Good Friday (3/4/15) I understood something which I have not understood before. After celebrating the Passover with his disciples, Jesus was arrested and tried in several different trials, before being sentenced to death and crucified. I have for a long time understood that in his crucifixion Jesus bore the wrath of God against humanity and set us free from condemnation. But what I did not understand is that in his final hours Jesus bore the wrath of humanity against God.
In the beginning humanity was made in the image of God and this status as creatures in the likeness of their Creator should have been sufficient for them. But, instead of trusting in their God, humans believed the word of the serpent, who has been a liar from the beginning. The serpent told Eve that if she ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree which God had forbidden humans to eat of, then Eve would become like God. Ever since humans first tasted of the forbidden tree, humanity has desired to be its own god.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem he came to use as both a human being and as the God who created us. This fact is referred to as the dual natures of Christ. That is to say, Jesus is the God-man. Jesus spoke the words of God and did the works of God. Because of this many people were offended by him and wanted to put him to death. Good Friday is the culmination of that desire.
When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, before Pilate and before Herod, these “juries” are but representative of all humanity who have continually, from the fall to the present, had the audacity to judge God, who is judge of all and forever blessed. When Jesus stood trial before these human beings he underwent the judgment of humanity who has deemed that the God who created them is not worthy to live.
When Jesus was taken out and beaten, whipped, spat on and crucified, he experienced all the anger and hatred which human beings have directed towards God throughout history. In our quest to make ourselves gods we have hated the fact there is a God who has the legitimate right to rule over us. The human race has hated God and every ounce of that pent up anger towards God was poured out on Jesus during his trial, suffering and crucifixion.
In demanding that Jesus take himself down off the cross and demonstrate his power, these representative humans were saying what every sinner has demands of God, that he should prove his power and his right to be their God. Instead of submitting to God’s word, because he is faithful and true, human beings have since the fall denied that God has spoken truthfully. All that pent up rage against God was poured out in those curses and that vindictive challenge to Jesus to come down from the cross.
When Jesus was placed in the tomb and the tomb was sealed with a large stone, humanity could let out a collective sigh of relief that finally God could no longer demand obedience of them anymore, because he is dead and buried and hidden from sight. The disciples mourned at the death of Jesus, but the world rejoiced.
What is paradoxical in all of this is that in allowing humanity to take out all of its pent up anger and violent hatred against God in his own person, Jesus also bore the wrath of God against humanity. This is the mystery of the dual natures of Jesus. He is both God and man and as such he bore both the wrath of humanity against God, unjustified as that is, and the wrath of God against humanity, which is fully justified. The Father used the hatred and anger of human beings towards himself to bring about the reconciliation of those who were his enemies. It was as God that Jesus bore the insults and hatred towards God without retaliation, praying, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they do.” And it was as a human being that Jesus transformed the relationship between God and humanity by refusing to judge God or question his faithfulness and truthfulness.