Judges 21:1-15, Mk. 15:33-41
The Christian faith is not a religion of near-misses and close-calls. The Christian faith is the religion of the dead. Human sin and depravity cannot be coaxed back to life. The sin of Adam did not contract a disease; in the day that we ate, we died.
This is part of the reason why God gives us stories of violence and confusion. Did the women and children Jabesh-Gilead deserve to be slaughtered? What kind of bloody compassion is this that Israel has for Benjamin? Many are so appalled at this that they will not read any further. If this God, I want nothing to do with Him, they say, feigning righteousness. But many Christians swallow hard and press on, and then they come up against Jesus. We know that Jesus died. But perhaps we rush a little too quickly to the end of the story without letting the horror of His death really sink in. We don’t let the bloody, God-forsakenness really chill us. There it is again, violence and confusion, and a dead man hanging, completely still as the flies buzz around Him. And at that very moment, when the heaving chest sinks down and refuses to rise again, a Roman soldier says, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” How could he say such a thing? Caesar was the Son of God. Imperial power claimed to be Divine. How could a dead Jew be the Son of God?
But the question should be: How could we know God if He didn’t die? We are dead. There can be no salvation unless God meets us here. We are a violent and confused people, but we love to pretend that we are somehow not that bad. We compare our stench to the other dead bodies and boast in our rotting fumes. But no treatment will do. There is no halfway house for corpses. Our salvation is not a close-call, a near-miss with death. All the other religions of the world stop short of such insanity, and explain that Elijah did come down and save us in the nick of time – save us from admitting our true depravity. Only God let’s His beloved Son die. Only the true God comes all the way down into our grave, into our shame, to bear our guilt, in order to crush all of it with the final convulsion of His death.