Good Friday: The Death of Power

All things are in His hands.  He can do whatever He wants….[but] what He most wants to do cannot be achieved by force.  Helpless baby in the manger, battered man dying on the cross–here is the opposite of the way of force.  Here is the way of love that suffers all the wrong, all that power bent against God can do against Him.  He suffers it all, and He is not overcome.  His victory is the victory of suffering love, not the victory of power.  And what He achieves thereby, by His cross, no use of force could achieve, and no use of force can destroy.

…Within His kingdom no coercive power can hold sway.  It suffers violence, but it does not live by violence.

Dr. Norman Nagel

Calvinism is the new black in evangelicalism.  Thanks to John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and others, Calvinism has enjoyed a marked resurgence in the last decade.

The material principle of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God.  God is all-powerful, He does whatever He wants whenever He wants to, and you can do nothing about it except say “Yes” and “Amen”.

It is very entertaining, in a dark and perverse way, to watch all the leading Calvinist talking heads come flying out of the woodwork in the wake of some immense human tragedy such as the tsunami in Japan or the bridge collapse in downtown Minneapolis a couple of years back, and issue statements to the effect of “God did this.  God is completely and totally responsible for this.  Praise be to God.”

Of course the Calvinists have an awkward point here.  Because of original sin, God would be perfectly just in causing ALL of humanity to die immediately and go to hell forever.  Anything different from this in any respect is a supreme and uncalled-for act of mercy on God’s part.  So if God chooses to save some and damn others, to spare some while bringing untold amounts of suffering into the lives of others, no one who dares to accuse Him of being unjust has a leg to stand on.

But what if this is wrong?  What if God shows His power, not by overpowering all who dare to speak against Him, but by placing Himself out there, letting the world do its worst to Him, and not being overcome?

What if God came to our world, not to take over, but to die?

James and John didn’t get this.  That is why they wanted to be on Jesus’s right and left when He came into His kingdom.

The other apostles didn’t get this.  That is why they rebuked James and John so harshly when they made their request to Jesus.

The throngs who cheered “Hosanna!” (which means “Save”) upon Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem earlier this week didn’t get this.  More than likely, they were not thinking “Save us from our sins.”  They were thinking “Save us from Rome!!!!!”

Judas didn’t get this.  When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to start the revolution that he was hoping to see, he went and had Him betrayed.

God refuses to respond to men’s attempts to use power and force with stronger power and force.  Instead, He shows His power by taking the very worst that the world can bring against Him and not being overcome.

When men seek to overthrow His kingdom with violence, God does not respond with equal and greater violence.  Instead, He dies.

God can do whatever He wants.  But what He wants most cannot be achieved by force.  So God does not choose the way of force.  Instead, He dies.