A Gaze Upon Glory
The story we hold to be true is absolute absurdity. Complete madness. Why would God die? How is this even possible? It is outrageous. And by crucifixion no less! Only the scum of the earth, the most base of beings, the failures of humanity are given over to such humiliation. What being is this, what essence is this that would succumb into weakness, having no longer autonomy, no longer wholeness, no longer life when at the very word of his mouth all creation came into existence? Who by ascending a tree, descended to the stomach-turning scorn of passersby. The hissing of peoples. How is this a glory? Only lunacy would see this as glory.
There is a common meme used by atheists that asks “God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself? Totally believable.” This mocking voice is not unique to our generation, indeed the Alexamenos Graffito pictured below shows a young man worshipping a crucified man with a donkey’s head accompanied with the inscription “Alexamenos worships his God.” It is the earliest known pictorial representation of the crucifixion of Jesus. The death of Jesus from the moment of its occurrence and throughout the centuries has triggered such mockery and disdain.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12.23-24
In beholding Jesus, we behold the scandal. What he says, what he does is appalling. “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Sorry, what? This man speaks madness. In a culture that loves its white-washed tombs, we must not edit and Photoshop Jesus. Come and see! Behold his embodied glory for what it is. It is a horrifying, gut-wrenching scandal.
And yet this scandal, this abomination that the world deems foolishness, is the perfect wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 23-24)
“And Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” John 17
The very nature of God is perfectly revealed in the horror of Golgotha. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18.
“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9
The mind of man grasps at God like a tree grasps the sun. Do we fathom the depths of his justice and righteousness? Like Abraham, do we not expect the perfect nature to uphold its perfection? For our own sake we thirst for the justice and righteousness of God even though we know we cannot bear it. Indeed, he knew we never could. Therefore, the scandal is before us and in it God reveals himself absolutely.
“”Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14
We must look on him whom we have pierced and in him his perfection is revealed in weakness. He truly is the God of justice and righteousness and steadfast love and we shall declare as Job:
All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands. For then you would number my steps, you would not keep watch over my sin; my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover my iniquity. – Job 14
Our response to Jesus must be anything but mild. The scandalous things he said and the scandalous things he did require of us to deal with him on his terms. We must bear the weight of his glory.