NEAR THE TOP OF THE HILL
I saw him near the top of the hill—he was alone and looking up at it and I didn’t want him to be alone so I went up and stood beside him. He didn’t see me though we were only a foot apart—I might as well not have been there.
There he stood, transfixed, silent, wondering, earnest but not gloomy, something of admiration—is that the word? I thought to myself—yes, that was it; there was something like admiration on his face. I didn’t understand that. How could I, for when I looked up at it I felt shame and guilt—nothing that would generate that sense or feeling.
Were we looking at the same awful thing, he and I?
“Awful, is it not?” I said. “Inexpressibly criminal and treacherous—yes?”
He didn’t speak, didn’t move, he just kept on look, eyes shining.
Once more I felt compelled to voice the evil of it, he heard my words this time and not just the sound.
“Yes, awful,” he said, “awful in so many ways, and astonishing.”
“Yes,” I said, “The Holy One punishing his own Son for our sins!”
“Punishing? Punishing his own Son? Never! The Holy One doesn’t punish the innocent or the faithful and much less would he punish his sinlessly obedient Son.”
“But,” I said, “He was bearing the sins of the world there, was he not?”
“Yes, the Holy One purposed this place as the place of Sin’s condemnation and humanity’s deliverance. ‘There,’ the Holy One said, ‘There and in him Sin is judged and its dominion is destroyed.’ But it’s condemned by the self-offering of a beloved Son, a spotless lamb—it has nothing to do with his being punished.”
“Still,” I murmured, “how ugly and cruel we are and this blood-streaked stake shows it.”
He said, “Indeed that’s so but it speaks of more than that and our grasp of that ‘more’ must become part of our speech and praise and view of our entire existence in and under the Holy One. For on that cross the Holy One has confirmed his loving and creative purpose to a wayward world; there he has revealed his faithfulness in the very presence of our intolerable faithlessness; there in our very act of stealing life the Holy One was giving it; there in our very act of seizing the Holy One was gifting; there in our act of murdering the Holy One was sacrificing; there in our very act of destroying the Holy One was re-creating; there in our re-enacting the ancient evil the Holy One was making all things new; there in our ultimate act of power the Holy One was showing us another kind of power and there where ‘the god of this world’ was showing his character and establishing his rule the Holy Father was casting him out. That and more leads me to say that I glory in the Lord Jesus’ cross by which the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.”
No wonder Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are seen by biblical writers to have such witnessing and ethical and spiritual depth and sustenance and empowerment—see how they bring us to all these, being invariably linked with all that the cross means and leads to.