God’s Will

The Rev. Joseph Winston Apirl 2, 2010

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Ever so slowly, the shadows lengthen. The whole world knows this. The temperature gradually drops, the winds die down, and many animals prepare themselves for bed. Soon, the outlines cast by the sun will be completely gone and night will appear. It is time to sleep. In about twelve hours, the process reverses itself. Light then will stream from the eastern sky. Gently warming the earth by degrees, the winds begin stirring once again, and the animals awaken. It is day and there is work to be done. This does not last. Half a day later, the sun is at the western horizon. Darkness falls on the world and everything starts over. We live here. Darkness turns into light and then light returns to darkness. You can find this seemingly never-ending rhythm deeply etched into creation. The environment adapts as one rules over the other. The animals sleep and awake. So,
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.


do we. The same pattern appears everywhere you look. Winter turns to spring and back again to winter. Death arrives but so does new life that dies one day. Evil appears in the land but good works to overthrow it. That situation never lasts. Evil comes back again just as strong. It really seems like a balancing act between two super powers. Just when darkness looks like it will win, morning comes and then when you might believe daylight will triumph, evening comes calling. People see this system right before their eyes. After all, they experience it every day of their lives and they turn it into an epic battle. On one side, there is darkness, winter, evil, and death. On the other is light, summer, goodness, and life. These forces battle it out for ultimate dominion. After all, there can be only one king. There are many ancient and modern names for the religions that believe this idea of two gods fighting it out. They do not concern us tonight. That is not what we believe. We trust in the God who created heaven and earth, who made light and darkness, summer and winter, good and evil, life and death (Isaiah 45:5-7). We believe in a God that controls everything, including giving up life for death. In our world, that has seen more than its fair share of misery, this idea is frankly revolting.2 It completely upsets us that God who brings us happiness also gives us suffering. We cannot stomach the thought that the same God who brings peace causes war to happen. Yet, it is all right here before us in the lessons. “Struck down by God, and afflicted,” that is what the prophet says will happen
The cross “cannot be loved,” but only the “crucified Christ” give freedom. J¨ rgen Moltmann, u The Crucified God, (Fortress Press, 1993), p. 1.


to Jesus and it certainly does (Isaiah 53:4b). Judas comes with a detachment of soldiers. As if six hundred military troops from the world’s best army were not enough to take Jesus into custody, Judas also brings along the police that work for the temple (John 18:3).3 (Clearly, they have some idea who they are up against.) Jesus knows what is coming (John 18:4). This simple phrase uttered by the narrator means much more than that. This is not a betrayal by anyone.4 Jesus goes to His suffering and death because that is exactly what God wants. The prophet goes on and speaks to us, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted (Isaiah 53:7a).” No one can deny that. The Roman official we know as Pilate orders that Jesus will be whipped (John 19:1). Some unnamed solider, accomplishes this task with ruthless efficiency while a others of his party make a crown of thorns for Jesus and they also find a royal robe for Jesus to wear (John 19:2). They know Jesus is special. They address Him as a king while backhanding Him (John 19:3). As if the horrid truth was too hard for us to bear, the prophet repeats the refrain for us once again, “Yet it was the will of the L ORD to crush him with pain (Isaiah 53:10a).” We are like Pilate. We do not want to hear who is in charge. Jesus continues with the awful Word, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above (John 19:11a).” It is the L ORD God Almighty that brings Jesus to this place. It is His will that Jesus die. It will not take much time for that to happen. The crowd calls for Christ’s death (John 19:15). The sentence is pronounced: death by crucifixion (John 19:16).
The Greek for the size of the soldiers reads τ ν σπε ραν or six hundred troops. Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B.; Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., editor, The Gospel of John, Volume 4, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 485.
4 3


So, “by a perversion of justice,” they take Jesus to “The Place of the Skull” and crucify Him with two others (Isaiah 53:8a; John 19:17). Ultimately, we are responsible for what happened on Golgotha on that Friday afternoon some two thousand years ago. Isaiah says, Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:4a; 53:5a) Look at your Savior. Like a runaway slave, on His back are the marks of rebellion torn deep into His flesh. But they are not His. They are yours. Like an overthrown monarch, He wears a crown upon His head. But it is not His. He is wearing your victory wreath. Like a king captured in battle, He wears a bloody purple robe. But it is not His. You gave it to Him. Like a traitor, He hangs on the cross. But it is not His. You let Him use it. There is no other way to save you. God must die. This is the terrify truth. Others might think it is a battle between light and darkness. Some even could believe it is an epic struggle between good and evil. This does not change the facts. Jesus chose to die for you. He is lying there in the tomb. Go home with a heavy heart and tears on your face. Your God is dead. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and


minds through Christ Jesus.”5

Moloney, S.D.B., Francis J.; Harrington, S.J., Daniel J., editor, The Gospel of John, Volume 4, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998). Moltmann, J¨ rgen, The Crucified God, (Fortress Press, 1993). u


Philippians 4:7.