Who Reigns?

Sometimes we picture [God] lounging, perhaps dozing, in some celestial deck-chair, while the hungry millions starve to death … . It is this terrible caricature of God which the cross smashes to smithereens.

[…] We have to learn to climb the hill called Calvary, and from that vantage-ground survey all life’s tragedies. The cross does not solve the problem of suffering, but it supplies the essential perspective from which to look at it. Since God has demonstrated his holy love and loving justice in a historical event (the cross), no other historical event (whether person or global) can override or disprove it. This must surely be why the scroll (the book of history and destiny) is now in the hand of the slain Lamb, and why only he is worthy to break its seals, reveal its contents and control the flow of the future.

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world” as ours….’ ‘The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak; they rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but thou alone. (bold emphasis mine)

(John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 1989, pp. 380, 320, 326)

Francisco de Zurbaran – Agnus Dei (1636)

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