"The man stands in front of [Pilate] with his hands tied behind his back. You can see that He has been roughed up a little. His upper lip is absurdly puffed out and one eye is swollen shut. He looks unwashed and smells unwashed. His feet are bare--big, flat peasant feet although the man himself is not big."--Frederick Buechner, "Telling the Truth, the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale."
"He uttered nary a mumblin' word." Negro Spiritual
We Christians are a strange bunch. We worship a man who, when arrested and beaten and standing before Pilate with his "big, flat peasant feet" "uttered nary a mumblin' word." We are unlike the Jews (the religious people), who "demand signs," (miracles for the benefit of the religious people) or the Greeks (the intelligentsia), who "seek wisdom" (a better way to live.) No, instead, we follow a man who suffered the most ignominious death ever devised by we cruel humans. We follow a man who, rather than calling down the wrath of angels upon his oppressors, went silently to His death on a cross.
Because it is true. Because what was foretold in the Garden--that the serpent would nick the heel of Eve's offspring (hang Jesus on the Cross), but that Eve's offspring would crush the head of the serpent (through His death and resurrection)--came true.
We don't follow Jesus because he will perform miracles on our behalf (give us better lives, happy families, job promotions, victory for our country in war). We don't follow Jesus because he will give us wisdom so that we can live better lives.
We follow Jesus, because the Cross (not signs or wisdom) speaks the ultimate truth about man and about God.
The Cross first is a mirror for each of us--we stare at it and into it--and realize that, like the Jews and Romans, we would have crucified Jesus. Our innate sinfulness leads us to hate love, and Jesus was that--the embodiment of perfect love. We don't like the fact that He chose the thieving tax collector over the upright, successful businessman. We don't like the fact that He saved the adulteress. We don't like the fact that He loved the non-religious people of his day and upbraided the religious. We don't like the fact that, instead of throwing out the Romans occupiers (the enemies of His people), He allowed himself to be killed under their governmental authority.
The Cross second is a reflection of God's response to our innate sinfulness. God didn't prevent the death of Jesus. God didn't seek retribution after His death. Instead, God forgave those who crucified Jesus. For, from the Cross, Jesus exclaimed:
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." If Jesus asked His father to forgive those who murdered Him, would His father not heed his Son's wishes? If God forgives them, will He not also forgive us?
The Cross is the victory of God over man. It says to us that we are immeasurably unlovely, but nonetheless unequivocally loved. Praise God for giving us the Cross, rather than signs or wisdom. Praise God for not giving us what we desired or deserved, but rather for once and for all expressing His infinite love to us while we were yet His ultimate enemies--the murderers of His son.