For our sake, God made Jesus to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.21)
Our word “crucial” is rooted in the Latin word for “cross”—the same word from which we get “crucifixion.” Over time, “crucial” has been diluted to mean “urgent” or “essential.” But in its strictest sense, it implies the right to choose. The geometry of the cross mirrors that of a crossroads, or intersection, at which the traveler must decide which way to go. She/he can either continue down the path of origin or go a different way. Choice is what makes the decision “crucial.”
The Holy Week narrative is riddled with crucial decisions. Faced with the option of entering Jerusalem anonymously, like any other Passover celebrant, Jesus chooses to ride into the city to the acclaim of His followers. He chooses to purge the Temple of thieving merchants. He chooses to return to the Temple throughout the week, where He teaches in an open forum, almost taunting the authorities to arrest Him. He chooses to expose Judas’s treachery at the Last Supper and then decides to facilitate His own arrest by taking the disciples to pray in Gethsemane. During His trial, He chooses not to defend Himself, allowing the crowd’s hatred and suspicion to run its course. Even while on the cross—where the skeptical thief challenges Him to save Himself—Jesus meets death at the crossroads and decides to die.
But all of these choices are a subset of a far greater crucial decision God makes in advance, a choice that ultimately brings us to a crossroads where we face crucial decisions about the direction our lives will take. In 2 Corinthians 5.20-21, Paul defines the terms of this decision, saying, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake God made Jesus to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” When faced with the prospect of remaining estranged from us due to our waywardness, God provided a means of reconciliation through the cross. We've been given a choice.
At Christmas, we marvel at the Incarnation, when God voluntarily takes on human flesh to live among us, as one of us. That is also a crucial decision. Yet today, as we rehearse the agonies of the Crucifixion, we see Jesus as more than “one of us.” The brutally maimed Savior has now become all of us. God made Jesus to be sin in its entirety—each of us at his/her worst and weakest—so that every one of us might become the righteousness of God. This was inconceivable before Good Friday, because such a choice was unavailable to us. So, while Jesus remains the central figure in the Crucifixion narrative, this gruesome story is ultimately about us, and our decision to be reconciled to God. We stand at a crossroad that that asks us to choose how we will live. Will we continue down a path that takes us farther and farther from God’s plan for our lives? Or will we turn away from selfish, unhealthy living to follow God’s way?
Because of Calvary, no one is denied the right to decide. Romans 3.22-24 assures us, “There is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Our right to choose isn’t based on the nature or extent of our failures and weaknesses. Since we’ve all sinned, we’re all given the gift of choice—to be reconciled with God or to pursue paths that distance us from God’s love and acceptance. No one is excluded.
Standing before the cross hands us crucial decisions that we make every day we live. If we allow the power of what we see to come alive in us, we will make the right choices.