The contemptuous passer-by, the priests, elders, rulers jeered: “…come down from the cross and save yourself!” Mark 15: 30 ; and bellowed: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” Matthew 27: 42 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Even “…one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” Luke 23:38-39
Jesus, as “God made man” doesn’t merely feel for us; he is not simply among us, he is one of us. Repeatedly, Jesus says he does all things by the authority, the grace, the power, the love of the Father. He does not trade on his own divinity; his power is derived. If he has the power to save himself, were he actually to do so, he negates his humanity and then, Jesus most definitely would not be one of us. Jesus’s death on the cross is the apex of God’s complete union with us… like us, he is damaged goods, and he is mortal.
“God [through Jesus] has entered into our suffering through his own suffering… What God offers… the promise that he is with us in our suffering; that he can bring good out of it (life out of death, forgiveness out of sin); and that one day he will put a stop to it and redeem it.1
“I am Jesus, I am an alcoholic.” Preposterous? Being human, injustice, pain, resentment, addiction, disease are all within his sway – yet his communion with the Father never falters, never fails him, even in his despair at the moment of death. But Jesus could not save himself. It wasn’t a choice… Jesus powerless on the cross. One of us. Yet his faith prevails.
When we idealize Jesus (or for that matter, solons with long-term sobriety) we purge him of his humanity, the very core of God’s presence as one of us. That includes wrestling with character defects along with graces and gifts. He engages us – talking, listening, questioning, learning in relationship with us, his brothers and sisters. All those conversations with Nicodemus in the night; with Mary, while Martha seethed; with John, the beloved; and what are the bonds that tie him to Lazarus, for whom he wept? Living in real time as one of us.
Tortured, humiliated, scorned and slaughtered, his sheep scattered, his ministry in tatters, dying, Jesus: one of us. Powerless, he turns his will and his life over to care of the Father: one of us. Triumphant, alive: one with the Father, one of us.
1 Peter Wehner What It Means to Worship a Man Crucified as a Criminal
NYT 4/19/19, quoting Scott Dudley, Sr. Pastor, Bellevue Presbyterian Church, Bellevue WA
“Jesus, as “God made man” doesn’t merely feel for us; he is not simply among us, he is one of us.”